Cross-dressing meets boy-girl duos on Paris catwalks

Cross-dressing in cut-out tuxedos, layering boyfriend cuts with superfine silks, or stepping out in his-and-hers pairs, it was a boy-girl thing on the Paris catwalks on Wednesday.

On day two of Paris Fashion Week, Belgium's Dries Van Noten sketched an ethereal collection that fused an ultra-feminine, oriental esthetic with boldly masculine cuts, from man-sized suit jackets or waistcoats to roomy shorts.

"It's the 40s, the 70s and the 90s all mixed," the designer told AFP backstage. "The forties for their elegance, the quirkiness of the seventies and the androgyny of the 90s."

Hair was swept back cleanly off the face but then left to tumble loose on the shoulders - mirroring the fine balance between angular, structured forms and billowing, free-flowing ones, strong cottons and delicate silks.

Van Noten's colour palette was jasmine white, dove grey and charcoal black, lit up by a recurring pattern of large-petalled peonies, magnolias in raspberry or lime green, printed on kimono-style dresses or blouses - inspired, he said, by Chinese porcelain.

Like a fresh take on the South Asian salwar-kameez, a pair of loose white silk pants was overlaid with a full-body-length overshirt in translucent black, which on close inspection turned out to be all one piece.

There were also splashes of silver, gold and copper, with a fish-scale effect popping up on jackets or a pair of man-sized bermuda shorts, modelled to a neo-pop soundtrack of guitar and dreamy, uplifting vocals - reverberated by the setting, under a concrete bridge on the River Seine.

A stone's throw downriver, a man's voice singing the Cole Porter classic "Love for Sale", a cappella, was the backdrop for the graphic collection of Portugal's Felipe Oliveira Baptista, who used a man's tuxedo as inspiration.

"It's kind of like a boy-girl thing - androgyny is something I always flirt with in my collections," he told AFP backstage.

"I found some images of stripteasers using very masculine tailored things, so I thought lets play on the tuxedo," said the designer, who also worked in dance world references like leg-warmers and leggings strapped underfoot.

Tubes of black, white or tan jersey became leggings, skirts and applique tops, with bold cut-outs on the calf, waist or shoulders and sewn-on pockets and glued-down lapels - a "trompe l'oeil" effect, the designer said.

Returning after a long absence, the 88-year-old Pierre Cardin took Paris to the space age and back, with a four-season tour of his fashion universe for both men and women largely stamped with 1960s pop and sci-fi futurism.

Opening the show just off the Champs Elysees, Cardin sent out twin his-and-her full-body suits in bold pink, with wire rings defining the knees, that looked plucked straight out of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Wetsuit-like ensembles, in his-and-her variations, came in black, silver and purple, worn with visor-like shades and headbands studded with black rubber bolts and spikes.

Other bodysuits were worn loose and flowing, in shimmery bright pinks or silvers, gathered only at the ankles and wrists.

Wristbands, necklaces and ankle bracelets fashioned from bunches of rubber tubes - in eye-popping pink, orange or green - sprouted from the edges of black tops and pants, while the men's boots were studded with metal at the rim.

In more earthly fare, Cardin's young woman wore pop-coloured mini-dresses with froo-froo skirts of red or yellow, bursting out from beneath skin-tight, bare-shoulder silver tops, or A-line trenchcoats in shiny blue, orange or pink.

Bulbous berets or outsized bell-hats defined the look throughout, while an elfin pointed hat grabbed the eye worn above a demure ribbed sweater and slinky trouser set.

But Cardin's classical styles also got a look-in with fairytale evening wear, earthy tweed jackets, and pastel patterned frocks that seemed more fit for an English wedding party than a trip to the galaxy's outer rims.

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