by MARK HOLGATE

Basically, this is what you never really want to deal with at an haute couture show: being sharply elbowed in the head (me) or heavily stood on (my seat neighbor) while a wall of photographers goes crazy trying to shoot whomever is seated opposite, only to find that when said photographers step away they’ve been snapping no one remotely well-known. Maybe it’s churlish to bring it up—it’s an occupational hazard, after all—and if the object of their desire had been Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, or Cecile Richards (I know, totally unlikely on the last count, but a man can always dream), then it might have been excusable. Anyway, it’s not strictly Elie Saab’s fault, but it kind of detracts from the perception of what should be the typical couture experience; you know: rarefied, elegant, discreet.

It is a bit of a shame, really, because in every other respect, Saab absolutely offers the typical haute couture experience. His is a show with a guest list heavy on international clients, dressed to the nines (and I don’t mean the amount of zeroes attached to the cost of the jewelry they’re wearing, or maybe I do) and who are expressly present to see what the Lebanese designer has to offer to further gild their lives. Perhaps more crucially, it’s one of the couture shows that is strictly concerned with creating evening clothes that, while looking good on the sylph-like figures of Roos Abels, Lineisy Montero, Kiki Willems, et al., can also work on the myriad silhouettes of the women who order from him.

It’s why he thinks about the importance of sleeves fully integrated into the total design of any given look. There is artfully and strategically placed beading designed to emphasize and de-emphasize different areas of the body. And the preponderance of trailing caped backs and skirts cut to flow over narrow pants, both much in evidence this season, can be deployed to flatter (and disguise, which is, I guess, the same thing) the figure. Given the amount of shimmer here (as on other couture runways this week), it appears as if the Oscar figurine won’t be the only thing that shines at this year’s Academy Awards. Oh, and one other thing. Attendees, take note: If you’re looking for something to shield your eyes from the glaring L.A. sunshine while waiting to enter the ceremony, then Saab has a solution—jewel-encrusted shades, which matched the beading on the dresses. Anyone else who has been nurturing that idea, then apologies; Saab has you beat.

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