Frills, flounces and French romantics take the place of the A-list

During the New York collections last month, designer Marc Jacobs declared fashion's love affair with celebrity to be on the wane. He promptly put his money where his mouth was by stripping his normally star-studded front row of the A-list contingent entirely. Just two days before the 2010 Oscar ceremony and the powers that be at Christian Dior beg to differ, clearly.

This was the first of the Paris heavyweights to show its forthcoming autumn/winter collection in the French fashion capital, the final destination of the fashion caravan. During a season in which famous faces have proved conspicuous by their absence, the fact that Charlize Theron, Jared Leto, Lou Doillon (actress and model daughter of Jane Birkin), Fanny Ardant and more were all in attendance only served to emphasise any bid for power.

And what of the clothes? In a nutshell: Dior designer John Galliano took the suitably grand Edwardian hunting theme that inspired him for his spring/summer haute couture collection shown in January and transformed it into a rather more accessible creature.

Sticking to a decidedly sludgy autumnal colour palette – olive, beige and all the shades of brown – the designer delivered cavalry coats in leather, tweed, tartan and fluffy mohair worn with jodhpurs and sky-high riding boots.

Merged with this was an 18th-century French libertine theme that is familiar Galliano territory: think slightly wanton, delicate, silk chiffon dresses printed with faded flowers and finished with cascading waterfall ruffles in palest sky blue, dusty rose and mint green and hand knits reminiscent of oversized bed jackets.

"Dior takes up the spirit of French romanticism and Mr Dior's beloved English riding tweeds," Galliano stated. "I was inspired by the drape, line and cut as well as the characters of that era."

More wanton women of a characteristically extreme nature made their way down Vivienne Westwood's catwalk. And more tailoring, tweeds and knitwear, too, for that matter. English heritage eroticised to the point almost of indecency is this designer's trademark, after all.

This time around, however, a more innocent fairy-tale mood was at play as unconventional principal boys and punk princesses appeared in everything from cornflower blue stockings and jaunty cropped jackets with gold epaulettes to quite the sweetest overblown cocktail dresses and gowns imaginable, emblazoned with proud-to-be-chintzy cabbage roses.

Plastic crowns and cartoon corsages in Crayola colours finished the designer's highly individual take on what we all might like to wear next autumn. At a time when so much fashion appears to be embracing the bland, this was truly a sight for sore eyes.

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