Fashion: Haute Couture - Paris, Autumn / Winter 1994

Slender and stacked; that's what the haute couture siren wants to look like. She wants clothes cut to show off a pert bosom, skinny arms and a waist you can span with your hands. That which nature has not been kind enough to endow, money, craftsmanship and corsetry can provide.

In the past, the couture customer wanted to be elegant, or perhaps innovative; the first to wear a shockingly new silhouette; but now, she wants to be sexy. Haute couture, once viewed as a grande dame being kept alive on a respirator, is now hip, healthy, young . . . or at least young at heart.

Certainly, the look is young of body. Karl Lagerfeld says that the Chanel client begs tighter] tighter] tighter] when seams are being pinched inwards during sittings - but these women don't want to look like those scrawny ladies who didn't lunch: they still want the ironing- board flat stomach, but now with a voluptuous bust up top. In short, what is required now is a package rarely sent from on high.

What the Lord sendeth not, haute couture trickery can conjure up. By the time Karl had finished seaming, sculpting, padding jackets, dresses and evening gowns, every girl-woman on the Chanel catwalk had a shape to stop traffic. Those who brought their own ample breasts along, such as the supermodel Stephanie Seymour, looked as if they could cause a pile-up. Seymour's uplifted cleavage, bursting out above the prim severity of classic Chanel, was one part ice-cold, one part red-hot - a combination the French have adored since Belle de Jour.

A sneak preview of the Chanel collection - Karl wanted to make sure I understood his mastery this time - revealed how it was done. Intricate corsetry lurked beneath the most sedate Chanel suit. Once on, even a boucle tweed boxy jacket, buttoned right up to the throat, had oomph. No daft tea-cosy hats, no treacherously teetering heels this time. Instead, the clothes spoke for themselves - in bodice-ripper volumes.

Claudia Schiffer's white flared bridal catsuit was saying Elvis. It was saying Vegas. But somehow it was saying glorious, gorgeous, to the model boyfriends - Michael Hutchence, Kyle MacLachlan, Vincent Perez and David Copperfield - who were sitting in a line at the show like the jury at a beauty pageant.

What men think matters. That is the point. Couture customers don't buy frocks that cost more than cars to please themselves. They invest in result-wear. Today's couture customer wants men wooed and on their knees.

Mr Pearl, an Englishman, was on his knees when we turned up to watch fittings at Christian Lacroix (the show is at noon today). But he was not being wooed, he was working, tight-lacing a model into a corset straight out of Tara. As we watched, her waist shrank to 19 inches. 'It didnt hurt,' according to Mr Pearl, who described it as 'an exercise in displacement'. His own strangely hourglass figure suggested he knew what he was talking about.

'It is the customer who demands it,' said Christian Lacroix, who has sold more than 20 tightly laced bridal gowns in the past year. 'She wants a tiny waist and a decollete of which she can be proud,' he added.

Valentino's dresses and jackets aren't easy either. They are exquisite and intricate, especially his sensational slinky silver sheath - surely designed with Elle MacPherson, who was invited to the show, in mind.

Although cut to make the best of the body, Valentino's siren sheath demanded that the body be pretty sensational to start with. 'In the show, she won't be wearing anything underneath, you won't see a line,' we were told at the rehearsal as platinum-haired Nadja Auermann gave the dress a test drive.

I have always suspected that the Gianni Versace customer isn't too attached to her knickers, which was fortunate, as there was no space for them under his dresses. These were snakeskin and rhinestone to the front, constructed to stack up one's assets, and shimmering chainmail to the back, which dipped down to a rear cleavage. Other versions, which showed less derriere, came in girly pastel pink, primrose and apricot, but concealed serious stitching in the bust cups, ensuring the wearer looked all woman.

The Versace vamp is probably not afraid of surgery, but haute couture seems to be striving to provide her with an equally expensive but smarter alternative - smarter because the fashionable body-shape changes. Vivienne Westwood has already explored padded bottoms at last season's ready-to-wear. Here in Paris are the first signs that the haute couturiers are beginning to follow her lead.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Key Account Manager, Medical

    £35000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent commission structure + Car: Charter Sele...

    Medical Affairs Executive

    competitive: Real Staffing: Medical Affairs Executive (contract) - EMEA Berk...

    Medical Customer Interface Manager

    competitive: Real Staffing: My client requires an experienced Medical Informat...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice