by AMY VERNER
The fairy-tale aspect of haute couture can often lead to “Once upon a time . . .” collections, and such was the case at Elie Saab, where a glitzy throwback to Paris in the 1920s was reimagined with contemporary workmanship. Show notes were packaged as a large-format program, with images of Josephine Baker, Mistinguett, and Kiki de Montparnasse accompanying a breathless text on the creativity that defined the period, and how today’s gowns were evocations of an “artistic paradise” where people partied day and night—hence the show’s title, Paris est une Fête.
And party dresses they were. In a largely subdued palette of champagne, silvery blue, and black with just a hint of rose, each look was beaded, bejeweled, feathered, and wrapped in a bow to varying degrees. Application aside, much effort had gone into the Art Deco arrangements that made up embroideries; as each dress passed, you could almost envision the wallpaper, furniture design, architecture, or vintage fabrics that inspired them. It was also interesting to consider the necklines—many scooping below the sternum—in the context of the collection’s muses. Josephine Baker, after all, famously danced topless at the Folies Bergère and Kiki de Montparnasse was known for posing nude. Here, more often than not, the dresses were sheer and in the necessary parts deliberately decorated; yet in comparative terms, they weren’t all that risqué.
The sparkling cloches, despite being literal, actually gave the looks an all-over splendor that could prove a striking point of differentiation at any event requiring such a fancy dress code. Indeed, the mind tries to envision where these women might actually be going—the red carpet notwithstanding. But surely a few will end up there; the question is, which and worn by whom? Unsolicited advice to any potential wearer: Opt for a design that really does show off the Art Deco, play up the decadence with the metallic silver, and skip the bow.