Galliano shows how to dress like a star and dance all night

IT WAS almost two hours late and Madonna could wait no longer. She stormed out two minutes before John Galliano's show began.

But no one gave her a second glance as the lift doors of a photographic studio on the outskirts of Paris opened to reveal a Fifties siren in a chalky-pale, tightly fitted taffeta jacket and a slinky floor- length skirt complete with an enormous primrose bustle.

Madonna should have waited. She would have witnessed, on Wednesday night, sleekly fitted pencil skirts of the kind Claudette Colbert would have worn to lunch with Clark Gable, and orientalist kimonos a latterday Gloria Swanson would wear for reclining on a chaise-longue.

She would also have seen one of the most breathtaking fashion extravaganzas. The singer who had long flirted with erotica and Hollywood glamour could have picked up a few tips on how to dress like a grown-up star.

For John Galliano is not just the new holder of the British Designer of the Year title. He has reached the very top of the pyramid of internationally acclaimed designers.

The French adored the show. The Americans (who now like to claim Galliano as their own, for the money that funds his talent comes, primarily, from the United States) were ecstatic. And we Brits, who have supported him since his student collection was snapped up and placed in the windows of the west London emporium Browns, were breathless.

Galliano has led us to expect a great deal. It was he, along with our other great British export, Vivienne Westwood, who took underwear and made it outerwear. It was he who first thought the time was right to spit in the eye of drab deconstructed clothes and send models out in hugely impractical, but exquisite ballgowns. Last season, he showed a mere 17 outfits, so good that they made him Designer of the Year. This time, the audience was anticipating a spectacle.

We got it. Fashion is renewing its love affair with pretty and Galliano is among those encouraging women to take a dainty step back towards dressing like ladies.

But what about women who want to dress like women? Galliano is wise enough to realise that practical 'wash and wear' clothes - trousers, sweaters, shirts, fluid skirts an so on - are not his forte. So he leaves those to others.

His territory is alluring clothing only suited to the cocktail hour, and who gets the chance to observe that anymore? But oh] how these clothes make you want to. They make you want to dance all night, spread your wings and do a thousand things. They make you want to believe in romance.

Galliano's wonderful ballgowns, his bias-cut slinky shifts and his little lace blouses may have no room in your wardrobe, but they do turn up on the richest women at the smartest of European parties. And both at society weddings and fashion 'in-crowd' nuptials, Galliano has become the designer of choice. No wonder the man who puts up the money, John Bult of Paine Weber, applauded so forcefully.

Fashion, pages 30-31

(Photograph omitted)