Lacroix is past master with show-stealing visions in silk and lace

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The Independent Online
TAMSIN BLANCHARD

Paris

The haute couture collections for autumn and winter 1995-96 opened in Paris on Saturday with the show almost entirely in brilliant white by Gianni Versace. But the real haute couture - the fine craftsmanship, the delicate lace, the divine embroideries and the masterly use of colour and fabric - began with Christian Lacroix, who received a standing ovation yesterday.

It was over 30 degrees outside but in the air-conditioned Grand Hotel, the women who can afford to be Lacroix devotees took their gilded seats looking as cool as if they had just stepped out of a refrigerator. It was soon easy to forget the heat outside and imagine these clothes being worn in the depths of winter. It was also easy to forget what century we are living in as antique lace, faded silks, Shakespearean ruffles and extraordinary ballgowns swished their way down the runway.

Christian Lacroix makes full use of the corset to shape and hold his clothes. Models may have been breathing in as they were laced up backstage by the British corsetier Mr Pearl, but the hour-glass shape is an inviting proposition for women who will have surgery for the sake of a few wrinkles.

For evening wear, tiny waists were emphasised by voluminous meringue skirts of taffeta and damask. Skirts were hitched up to the hips, exquisite lace was sculptured over the shoulders and a fringed gypsy back-slash flamenco dress jutted out behind in a finely pleated fan-tail.

For day wear, there were refined black jackets, sculptured from leg-of- mutton sleeves, fitting closely to the body. There was a black velvet coat, a coral tweed suit with a knee-length skirt flipping out from the thighs. There were sparkly tweeds and demure wools. These clothes - and tens of thousands of pounds - are all that a woman needs to achieve true elegance.

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