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.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
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

    Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

    £50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

    Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

    £50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

    Primary Teaching Supply

    £130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

    Year 1/2 Teacher

    £130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

    Day In a Page

    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
    The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

    The fall of Rome?

    Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
    Glasgow girl made good

    Glasgow girl made good

    Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
    Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

    Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

    Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

    Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
    The landscape of my imagination

    The landscape of my imagination

    Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories