They stood for more than an hour in the torrential rain, sinking in the mud of the Tuilleries Gardens near the Louvre Museum, the water pouring off umbrellas.
But the miserable weather seemed to curb few of the more than 3,000 buyers and press and another 2,000 fashion groupies determined to see the show of the current fashion "guru," Jean-Paul Gaultier. To accommodate the exceptionally large crowd, two tents were used for the first time: one for the buyers and press, the other for admirers to watch the show on video.
At the door to one tent, guards shoved back the crowd. The push was so great, however, that it finally forced them to open a second door and the crowd surged into the tent.
"The French run their shows like they fought World War II . . . running backwards," said Michael Cody, Women's Wear Daily executive editor who got carried into the tent in the middle of that final crush forward.
All this for a fashion show that showed clothes that were often provocative, witty and fresh, while other times naughty and even offensive.
Models started down the long runway through a backdrop that was a torn photograph of a person, female on one side, male on the other. Gaultier played with this theme, opening the show with men and women in near identical pinstripe suits, the men in wrap skirts that were like narrow skirts in front and trousers in back. With tuxedo-like jackets, the male models wore sarongs.
As the show progressed, Gaultier created giddier cross-dressing with men in sheer trousers over their colorful bikini underwear and he dressed both men and women in costumes that were half tuxedo and half a gold strapless dress in one outfit.
The sexual ambiguity went far beyond the clothes; men with body-builder physiques and shoulder-length hair wore skirts and sarongs.
"We'll pass on the skirts for men, but the collection is full of a million other ideas," said Bloomingdale's executive Kal Ruttenstein. Ruttenstein particularly liked the iridescent fabrics, the proportion of the short blouson over the long jacket, and the bareness of a lot of the clothes. "We've had bareness here. The new erogenous zone is the back," said Ruttenstein.
Indeed, baring the body is a major theme with the French designers. Just about every designer has found some way to expose the midriff, the navel, the derrie re, the shoulders and the knees for next spring. When the body is not bared, often it is revealed under sheer fabrics or fringe.
Gaultier has scissored out the back of sweaters and shirts in previous collections, but this season he did jackets as well.
If last year's ideal was Katharine Hepburn or Greta Garbo, in their suave, mannish style of dress, the new heroine is Dorothy Lamour and Evita Peron. That is how Thierry Mugler dressed his models: using fringe to cover the legs, uncovering the midsection with shirts tied under the bust or cropped tops worn with short tight skirts.
Claude Montana seems so interested in showing off the body that he hasn't bothered to show any real dresses or suits this season. He likes leg-baring shorts, which he teams with crushed tubular strapless tops, and he likes sweaters so brief they just cover the bust, worn with tight miniskirts that usually dip below the navel.
Anne-Marie Beretta also likes to bare the navel with her skirts. And both she and Montana use draped or cowl- backed necklines as a way of showing off more of the back than usual.
Montana, who originally made the strongest statement with broad shoulders, has abandoned them and lets his oversized shirt jackets slip off the shoulder to reveal a lot of bareness of the model, wearing a skimpy knit underneath.
While other designers used halter styles to display this new erogenous zone, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac cut out as much as he could from the backs of several dresses and held together what was left with lacing.
For others, like Angelo Tarlazzi and Jean-Louis Scherrer, the cutouts were far more discreet and wearable with short flyaway jackets, or with well-placed sheerness. Scherrer, for example, showed a black sheer gown with scattered, colorful appliques and other designers included skirts that were see-through.
The bared shoulders and more simple cuts were a pleasant surprise at Issey Miyake. "Do you think the clothes are so simple people will think I did not work very hard?" Miyake asked one of many admirers who came back to congratulate the designer after the show.
It is the fabrics and coloring that are also remarkable in any Miyake collection and here the colors are far more gentle than the brilliant, often screeching shades that many designers have chosen this season. Miyake has experimented with a silicone coated cotton and linen blend that is somewhat water repellent and a stiffer fiber that is actually cotton yarn wrapped around fishing line. Accordian pleats that are tie-dyed give remarkable effect.
In spite of some more identifiable and narrower shapes, clothes are never rigid but move easily over and around the figure. Even the jacket, a shape Miyake used only in his menswear line before now, drifts off with swallow tail hems that are never still; deeply ribbed knits virtually undulated as the models moved.
Karl Lagerfeld bared the back with some of his sweaters and bared the leg with short skirts and shorts and a draped skirt that revealed the thigh as well. But it was his playing with proportions, such as showing very short jackets over blousons that made many, like Benita Downing of Neiman-Marcus, call this Lagerfeld's best collection ever.
Lagerfeld is a master of prints, which he created in the same way he cut out of paper the prints used in the collection he made for Fendi. But the result is different. In several print dresses the back of the dress is solid black and gives a very slimming effect. And when he designs embroideries, this year they are fireworks, literally, shooting out over the dress like fireworks over a city. In fact, the silhouette of a city is also in beaded embroidery at the hemline.
Several beaded jackets are Lagerfeld's interpretation, with a change in scale, of the classic Hawaiian shirt the designer recently saw in a book. "These are clothes for the young customer who goes to gym classes and keeps in shape just so that she can wear clothes like this. And finally there are clothes that are not boring that she will want to own," added Downing.
With all the emphasis on bareness, it is no surprise that some designers have used underwear as a way to show off the body. Gaultier seems obsessed with underwear. In fact, under what is for him a rather businesslike suit, he showed, in place of a blouse, a long-line brassiere or Merry Widow as a tunic. Models who undoubtedly were unfamiliar with this equipment were so amused by this look they pulled the falsies from them, tossing them into the audience. In another sequence the red and black Frederick's of Hollywood style underwear was made in leather.
With clothes cut apart for daytime and evening, what's a woman supposed to wear to the beach? So far, designers have switched signals, putting women under cover with swimsuits that have long sleeves and even skirts.