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Fashions by Marc Jacobs, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent

Frilly femininity vs. no-nonsense glamour at Paris shows


PARIS — Marc Jacobs ended the fall runway season at Louis Vuitton on Thursday where he began it nearly a month ago at New York Fashion Week -- in the 1980s. But his collection for Vuitton didn't channel the artsy underground the way his main line did. Instead, it was about the corseted, crinolined and poufed 1980s of Christian Lacroix, by way of the Playboy mansion.

Excess was the rule. Jacobs' coquettes pranced around the runway in layers of lace, brocade and tulle, boots that laced up over the knees and abstracted black bunny ears. There were plenty of accessories to choose from, and they looked like money in the bank for Vuitton. Monogram bags came gold-studded and crystal-dusted, while oversized leather chain-link necklaces nodded to the house's leather goods heritage.

And for those who were wondering why, in an 1980s-obsessed runway season in which Michael Jackson is again a fashion muse, we haven't seen his sequined glove, it was here -- fingerless in fuchsia. The only thing missing was the big hair. Oh yeah, and the economic boom.

Chanel basics

In this tough environment, Karl Lagerfeld marshaled all the classic Chanel codes in his arsenal for his collection. He sent out doll-like versions of Mademoiselle herself, complete with flat-top boater hats and clear plastic, suitcase-like kits of Chanel essentials -- the quilted handbag, the bottle of perfume, the compact -- that had the look of a child's toy.

Perhaps Lagerfeld was inspired by Barbie (he did a series of photographs of the 50-year-old icon that was unveiled at the Paris boutique Colette on Thursday night). Indeed, there was something about the plastic-y models, breezing in and out of eight interconnected rooms constructed on the runway, that brought to mind Barbie's Dream House.

Many women's dream house is Chanel. So Lagerfeld laid out all the trappings in black and white, with classic boucle cardigan jackets and little black dresses trimmed in rows of white camellias, and black coats with frilly white cravats and cuffs.

The palette was accentuated by touches of ballet pink (cutesy pom-pom socks and fluffy bow-front sweaters) and soft green (pleated trousers worn with a popcorn knit jacket).

Add to that quilted backpacks, Art Deco geometric jewelry and geometric print leotards, which looked more like Alexander McQueen than Chanel, and it felt a little like product overload. But that was probably the point. Because there may not have been much focus to this collection, but there was something to appeal to every woman, whatever Barbie she may be.

All business

At Yves Saint Laurent, designer Stefano Pilati tapped into the history of his house, and its founder's vision of empowering women through fashion. Gone were the too-high heels, the silly wigs and the dhoti pants of Pilati's past. It was time to get down to business, and he did, by translating the season's sexy, edgy vibe into something wholly wearable, instead of the retro parody so many designers have given us.

The collection was almost entirely black and white, and full of functional pieces. A glossy black biker jacket with discreet studding on the collar was on trend, but not too on trend -- meaning that it's the kind of piece you would want in your wardrobe forever. Ditto the black leather pants -- not too tight -- topped off with a perfect white shirt with full sleeves and a collar worked into a sculptural bow. (It's a wonder more designers haven't riffed on the white shirt for fall; it's so timeless.)

This was power dressing with flair -- a high-waist pinstripe pencil skirt, a longish pinstripe boyfriend jacket and a funnel-neck shift with just a hint of sheen. But there were moments of eroticism too, including a black leather leotard Madonna would love, and a black leather bustier worn under a sexy secretary suit.

It was all respectful, sensible, quiet glamour -- a welcome respite from the aggressive shouting of the season's surfeit of razor-sharp shoulders, skintight leather leggings, crystals and studs.

The jazz piano playing softly in the background said it all.


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