Due to an editing error, a report in Monday's Style section incorrectly identified a man modeling a Chanel jacket as Karl Lagerfeld. Lagerfeld designed the jacket but did not model it in the Paris show.
Today was a day of many firsts for Paris fashion. It was the first time the bride was a mermaid. It was the first time a designer pitched a chateau instead of a tent in the Tuileries in which to show off his clothes. And it was the first time a man wore a Chanel jacket.
The mermaid -- all sparkling white, and carried by her groom in a white suit as the finale in the Christian Dior show -- was obviously inspired by the movie "Splash," now playing on the Champs Elyse'e.
The chateau, really one of the three tents other designers had used, but gussied up with stone statuary and awnings, saluted designer Valentino's 25th year in business. The boardwalk he had built leading up to the tent acknowledged the messy weather that has been characteristic this week in Paris.
And the man in the Chanel jacket was Karl Lagerfeld, the designer at Chanel, poking fun at the cross-dressing that has become the pet theme of several other designers. Once he reached the end of the runway, Lagerfeld was met by Ines de la Fressage, the model that appears in most Chanel ads, who took the jacket, put it on and confidently strode back down the runway. The audience loved it.
Other news from the Paris fashion front may not be as remarkable, but it's nevertheless worthy fashion news for those who care.
The day started with Hubert de Givenchy, a designer so clearly pegged as creating clothes for proper ladies that he never turns out mobs of buyers or press. In fact the turnout is usually so small that Givenchy avoids showing in the huge tents that accommodate 1,000 or more. This year he chose the elaborate (and uncomfortably warm) reception room of the Intercontinental Hotel, and showed one of his youngest and prettiest collections in a long time. He hasn't shied from spring's most popular theme, bareness, but he does it in a dignified way, often with short flyaway or bolero jackets covering sundress-cut dresses. The jeweled versions he showed over long dresses were as stunning as those in his couture collection -- and will probably sell for couture prices as well.
There was news at Chanel that even the late Coco Chanel would have welcomed. Lagerfeld introduced some boxy, even flyaway, jackets and changed the piping on them to work horizontally across the chest as well as vertically. Hems were all cut off above the knee. "Coco wouldn't mind at all," said Lagerfeld, who scored with the most imaginative collection in Milan for Fendi and to date has done the two best in Paris. Coco Chanel had a rule about making hems about two inches below mid-knee, but "times are different now," said the designer, "and so are the hose that women wear with skirts."
Lagerfeld also understands how women want to dress for the office or lunch -- his white artists' shirts or pleat-front blousons, or his striped shirts worn with short or long black skirts could take you almost any place in Washington.
Photographers surrounded the chair from which Princess Caroline of Monte Carlo was expected to watch the Dior presentation, but she was a "no-show," as was her sister Princess Stephanie, who now works in the Dior design studio.
Without Princess Caroline, the celebrity watch turned to Marie Helene (Bootsie) Galbraith, wife of the U.S. ambassador to France Evan Galbraith. She was in the front row, wearing a gray tweed Dior suit and tie. She has trouble tying the tie, she admitted. "I have to enlist the help of my husband or hairdresser," she laughed.
Besides celebrities, there was plenty to photograph in the collection. The clothes, now designed by Gerard Penneroux, were clean to the point of being reminiscent of the Courre ges styles of the 1960s, but wearable, with a balanced use of bright colors for daytime and evening.
This is the first time Valentino has presented his collection on the same turf as the French designers -- in the past he has shown at a restaurant in the middle of the Bois de Boulogne. Whatever the location, and whatever the season, you can't miss the Valentino signature on the clothes.
Best with Washington's Valentino boutique are the sweaters, according to Ernest Marx, head of the retail operation that includes Saks-Jandel and Valentino. Valentino's newest sweater is decorated with a long double row of buttons, but the thoughtful designer has put in a zipper so you don't have to button them at all. He sometimes gets tricky, as in his black linen cardigan suits with floral printed linings that tie in front to give the effect of separate vests. But he is far more successful when he keeps things simple, such as his long smock jackets in silk or jersey, or his comfortable blouson cashmere sweaters or jackets.
The simplest of all are his evening clothes -- the best are cut bare in the back, this year's favorite erogenous zone, and fit like second skin. To wear them, women will not only have to give up food, but also their underwear. From the applause of the audience, it seemed they were anxious to do both.