Natalie Portman’s Latest Cannes Dress Was Designed By Christian Dior Himself

natalie portman
Samir Hussein/WireImage

We’re only a little over halfway through the 2023 Cannes Film Festival and already, there have been enough major fashion moments to satiate even the most style obsessed. Elle Fanning kicked things off earlier last week in a magical, sculpted custom Alexander McQueen gown, Gigi Hadid made an appearance in a sleek Zac Posen, but the most notable moment occurred on Saturday, without a doubt. That was when Natalie Portman attended the premiere of her film, May December, in a recreation of what is arguably one of Christian Dior’s most famous dresses of all time.

The actress’ dress was a direct reference to Dior’s famous Junon dress, originally created for the house’s autumn/winter 1949/50 collection. Like the recreation, the original was a strapless gown with an embellished, ivory bodice that dipped low in the back. The skirt, was the focal point, featuring layers on silk tulle petals covered in intricate beading and embroidery to create an ombré-style effect that resembled eyeless peacock feathers or large, fish-like scales. The dress was named after the Ancient Roman goddess, the wife to Jupiter, and was often seen with its equally breath-taking sister, Venus, also designed in 1949 for the same collection. Both dresses have been on display at multiple museums over the years, including as part of the Metropolitan Costume Institute’s 2016 show, "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” Currently, though, they are not on display to the public.

Doug Peters/PA Images via Getty Images

Portman’s version of the gown is the first time the house of Dior has attempted a direct recreation of the dress, but it’s not the first time it has been replicated, or even referenced by the French house itself. In 2010, John Galliano mimicked the skirt’s shape in sparkling gray tulle for his spring couture collection, and in 2017, Maria Grazia Chiuri did so in pleated tulle once again. Last winter, it was referenced in a menswear look for the first time when Kim Jones reimagined the famous skirt as a sleeveless top in his fall/winter 2023 collection for Dior. Up until Portman’s dress, however, the most famous recreation didn’t even come from the hands of a Dior creative director, but Zuhair Murad, who created a similarly scalloped number for Miley Cyrus to wear to the Oscars in 2009.

Dior spring 2010 couture.

Fairchild Archive/Penske Media via Getty Images

Dior spring 2017 couture.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images for Dior

Dior fall 2023 menswear.

Courtesy of Dior
WWD/Penske Media/Getty Images

Of course, the appearance of this dress (even a recreation) has once again reinvigorated the constant conversation around vintage pieces and their legacy. Many were delighted to see the creation kept alive and celebrated again in 2023, while others felt Chiuri and Portman’s version paled in comparison to the original, and that some pieces are just “off-limits” for recreation. Of course, Portman would never step out in the original version—it wouldn’t be allowed and it’s also just not possible. The Junon dress is so fragile at this point that, according to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco—which received both the Junon and Venus dresses by donation in 1949— “the sequin-heavy embellishments is starting to fail on both dresses” so “any major movement of the skirts results in some degree of loss.” Because of that, “each gown is handled as little as possible—even as it undergoes treatment.” It is likely for these architectural reasons that Portman’s gown admittedly lacked some of the details seen in the original—the back doesn’t dip quite as low, the skirt doesn’t move in quite the same way, the petals feature noticeably less embellishment. It’s possible it just couldn’t be recreated in the exact same way. But still, the moment was a delight, especially on Portman, who has been an ambassador for the brand and the face of their Miss Dior fragrance for over a decade.

Doug Peters/PA Images via Getty Images