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Lights, Camera, Allure!


At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz has proven himself a master designer. He has created a particular aesthetic that is not based on embellishment, dramatic tricks or convoluted tales of having found his inspiration in a scrap of lace discovered under a rock in Palookaville. For fall, he does not go racing forward with myriad new ideas. He pauses, allowing his customers to enjoy this moment of softly full skirts with longer jackets that curve softly over the hips.

A spare red dress is intriguing because of its uneven hemline and the subtle contrast in textures. A cocktail dress is little more than a simple panel of lapis blue satin with a few darts and tucks in just the right places. Elbaz offers a narrower silhouette in a skirt with a quiet bump of a ruffle along the back. And he pairs his suits with both dauntingly high pumps or ballet flats -- blissful, comfortable flats.

Among Galliano's Paris designs, a leather trench coat evoking the screen sirens of the past. (Maria Valentino - For The Washington Post)

_____From Robin Givhan_____
On the Trail Of Chanel's Famous Blazer (The Washington Post, Mar 5, 2005)
Simply Christian Dior (The Washington Post, Mar 4, 2005)
Beauty and the Beat: Yamamoto Rocks (The Washington Post, Mar 3, 2005)
What the Designer Has in Store (The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2005)
D&G Turns Up the Heat For Fall (The Washington Post, Feb 27, 2005)
_____Arts & Living_____
The Fashion & Beauty section has stories and tips.

Louis Vuitton

The collection that Marc Jacobs created for Louis Vuitton bears many of the hallmarks of his signature collection, which he presented last month in New York. There are the same dark tones, the volume in the skirts and dresses, the same kind of melancholy romance.

But for Vuitton, the skirts, with their embroidered petticoats, have a luxury and richness that went missing in New York. The shapes are more controlled. There are Empire-waist dresses and coats that are full and loose, but the fabric never seems to overwhelm the woman. These clothes do not diminish a woman, reducing her to a girl. They suggest a confident woman who does not need to display her Pilates body to get noticed.

John Galliano

In the past, John Galliano has always marketed his brand with elaborate tales of princesses and czarinas. The clothes became costumes, and one thought perhaps the designer would be better suited to Hollywood. For fall, Galliano scheduled his show in a film studio in the Paris suburb of St. Denis. Surely this was another wacky fashion adventure: kooky makeup and balloon hats in a studio some 40 minutes from central Paris. On a cold, snowy night, everyone climbed into cars to see what great extravaganza awaited. Pooh-pooh the inconvenience and distance. Put a fashion show on the top of Mount Everest -- genius! -- and intrepid fashion folks would think nothing of it. They'd simply organize their Sherpas and go.

The studio had been transformed into the backstage of a film set. The collection called to mind the world of "Being Julia" and "The Aviator," both set during a time when women wore satin, embroidered dressing gowns and bias-cut evening slinks, and styled their hair in romantic fingerwaves. For the first time in a long while, Galliano presented a collection in which the clothes did all the selling.

There was a white trouser suit and a navy leather trench coat, both in an oversize silhouette that called to mind the aloof screen sirens of the past, such as Marlene Dietrich or Greta Garbo. And then came the magnificent, romantic dresses. There was a psychedelic-dot silk gown topped with a white overcoat printed with the Warholized image of an old-fashioned head shot. A peach satin dress was adorned with silken roses and embroidered with crystals.

And there was one dress, with layers of pale peach chiffon in the simple, low-waist style of a flapper's tank dress, that was embellished with tiny organza butterflies. It was beautiful. It was the kind of beautiful that makes one pause and simply stare. It was the kind of beautiful that makes one a little embarrassed because intellectually one knows that a dress -- a simple garment, this dreadfully expensive bit of silk, this capitalist indulgence -- should not make one smile so stupidly. But it does, because sometimes a beautiful garment can strike an internal chord in the same manner as a melody, a couplet or an artist's brushstroke.

The dress reminded one of the mesmerizing collections that Galliano presented in the past -- before he got caught up in all the grotesque, distracting razzle-dazzle of his marketing campaigns. In a few precious layers of fragile chiffon, Galliano evoked the complicated emotions of romance. It breaks your heart. You knew it would. You knew it from the very beginning. You simply didn't care.

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