It looks like a blazing Technicolor winter for women's fashions, with hemlines both short and long.
The 10-day Paris ready-to-wear style parades of some 100 designers for about 1,800 international clients and press shattered the eyes with wild colors, two to four per outfit.Silver, gold and bronze dominated for tights, shoes, trenchcoats, skirts and jackets. Yves Saint Laurent closed the season's shows with evening gowns and little flat bootlets gleaming like molten gold.
Models were squeezed into silver and 18-carat gold tights at many shows. Nearly every Karl Lagerfeld number meant second-skin body suits half-covered by short swinging dresses or jackets. Silver and gold was used for gloves, coat linings and visor hats. Even the quiet Pierre Balmain house tastefully added long gold sleeves to a black velvet slim dress.
Stronger colors painted the parades in the Louvre Museum courtyard under tents and in private showrooms around Paris. A short purple coat swung over sunny orange tights and boots at the Chloe show. Guy Laroche coats startled the viewer in huge blocks of red and purple over red tights.
Sequins and rhinestones added to the glitter and gleam. Valentino gladdened his crowd with a trench coat, blouson top and trousers sewn entirely with black sequins.
The latest chapter in the hemline hassle: Paris at last gave women a choice of any length plus lots of trousers, from cigarette pants to knickers and shorts.
After years of micro-minis, longer skirts made a cautious comeback in the January haute couture shows of Emanuel Ungaro and Yves Saint Laurent. In the March ready-to-wear lineups the longer hemline gained courage. Emanuel Ungaro firmly put sporty wool midi skirts in striking Indian-like prints with long belted tops and mid-calf red, blue or green coats on his market.
Saint Laurent dropped hemlines to around the knee (but this shouldn't be startling since many women over 40 have worn skirts at that length for years, anyway). Saying "the hemline depends upon the girl and the dress," the designer cut a string of Scotch plaid full-skirted ruffled dresses at mid-calf but showed an above-knee short skirt, too.
Trousers were plentiful in most shows, from skinny cigarette pants at Guy Laroche to Saint Laurent's widish checked trousers chopped off at mid-calf.
The main silhouettes were the A-line, or trapeze shape, and the lampshade line that gently marks the waist and flares out to the hem, pioneered by Claude Montana. The Valentino house presented a lampshade that flared out and then in. All these shapes meant soft shoulders except for the ritzy Palm Beach-New York finery of Hubert de Givenchy.
Most jackets of the trapeze or lampshade design ended at a 7-8 length, leaving a strip of skirt or dress showing below.
Duffle coats, quilted ski-type jackets and tons of capes crowded the runways. Shoes ranged from flats to towering heels plus the eyebrow-raising button-like platform soles at Saint Laurent.
Quilting blanketed the shows - red or green square quilted coats over cigarette pants at Guy Laroche, a lovely white quilted suit at Hanae Mori, quilted black skirts at several houses, quilted hats, quilted duck blue, violet or ochre quilted jackets with hoods at Lagerfeld.
Hoods, in fact, shrouded many a show - take a hooded curved dress at Jean-Louis Scherrer or a white fox hood on a turquoise jacket over white pants at Montana.
As for fabrics: denim at Chanel of all places, hound's tooth and Scotch plaids at many houses plus vinyl-Lycra-wet-look stretch fabrics for tights and body suits, lace, lame, wools and lace and net for see-through skirts and tops.
Red, orange, yellow and purple and shades thereof were leading colors. Darker Italian Renaissance hues of slate blue, burgundy and pine green were used by the small house of Lecanuet-Hemant.
Lagerfeld's two wild and wacky shows for Chanel and for his own house won praise while the best-show compliments went to Montana and Jean Paul Gaultier. Thierry Mugler's line was the funniest. Two huge fake eyes that winked and two plastic arms that hugged were sewn onto the bosoms of some incredible outfits.
Oscar de la Renta became the first important American designer to show in the main parades in the Louvre before applauding packs of his New York clients who flew over to watch. His line was tasteful and elegant, an echo of the Valentino house. But de la Renta is not a creator, as the Paris newspapers said.
The Persian Gulf war did not dent the shows, as approximately the same number of press and buyers signed up as before the upheaval. So the scene underneath the three tents was as hectic as usual.
"It's more like a soccer game than an elegant fashion show," said an astonished Spanish journalist.