Wed, Jul 08, 2009 - Page 13 News List

Couture off to sheer start at half-dressed Dior

Less was left to the imagination at Paris’ haute couture fashion shows than usual as designers turned to bright and shiny fabrics in these dark economic times

By Jenny barchfield  /  AP , PARIS

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In these times heavy with financial worry, Paris’ winter 2010 haute couture displays got off to a light start on Monday, with sheer fabrics taking center stage at Dior’s half-dressed display and at budding French labels Stephane Rolland and Alexis Mabille.

Normally winter is the season of lush cashmeres and snugly wools, but Paris’ couturiers opted instead for feather-light crepe silks and suggestively sheer tulles inspired by 1940s undergarments.

At Christian Dior, madcap British designer John Galliano paid homage to the women who made a living modeling the New Look styles that catapulted Dior to fashion legend after World War II.

Except that Galliano’s models looked as if they’d been wrenched from the dressing rooms halfway through their wardrobe changes: Models wore a waspwaisted bar jacket with just a garter belt and stockings or a bubble skirt with a bra — but rarely both elements of Dior’s legendary skirt suits at the same time.

“I imagined the ladies backstage sort of making themselves up and someone saying the show has to start but they hadn’t been really dressed. But the show had to go on,’’ Galliano said in a backstage interview after the show, which was held on Avenue Montaigne, where Dior’s favorite models once presented his creations to clients.

Stephane Rolland continued to forge his reputation as a master embroiderer with a retro-futuristic collection that was heavy with elaborate geometric mosaics made from fabric-wrapped plastic tubes.

It was the future as seen by an artist moonlighting as a plumber circa 1973.

Lace and sheer silks took center stage at Alexis Mabille, an up-and-coming French designer whose fans include ex-supermodel-turned-first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

Baby-doll dresses in white eyelet, toga-draped gowns and abbreviated cocktail numbers that looked as though they had been crafted from antique bed linens made up the featherlight collection.

Silk gowns sprouted fluttering, crepe-petaled flowers at Christophe Josse, another French designer known for his wispy, lacy cocktail numbers. Flowers sprouted from the neckline on jackets, cascaded down the shoulders of dresses and were strategically sprinkled over the bustier of the sheer bride gown.

Paris’ haute couture shows — displays of wildly expensive garments made-to-measure for a handful of ultra-wealthy women — moved into the second of three days yesterday, with shows by heavy-hitters Armani, Givenchy and Chanel.

In what was sure to be a poignant moment yesterday, Christian Lacroix, who has been hit hard by the financial crisis and is struggling to find his financial footing, showed what could conceivably be his last couture collection to a small audience of fashion insiders.

CHRISTIAN DIOR

Models in various stages of undress — albeit polished undress — padded languidly across the plush gray carpets of the Dior flagship, striking pouting poses as they meandered through the beehive of salons.

Hourglass-shaped dresses in vibrant jewel tones dipped in the back to reveal the suggestive laces of a tightly cinched corset. A flesh-colored slip peeked out from beneath a knee-length dress, its sexy silk undermining the dress’ straight-laced seriousness. The skirt of a strapless ball gown in embroidered pink duchess satin was cut out in front and back to frame the model’s stockinged legs.

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