spring 2012 haute couture

Lynn Yaeger: Lack of Booze, Luckless Crocodiles, and a Potential Push Present for Beyoncé at the Spring 2012 Couture Shows

Did Beyoncé get a push present? Besides closing down a floor of a New York hospital, Jay-Z could gift her a strapless buttercup-yellow romper-suit from Versace couture, distinguished, like most of this collection, by cartoon-futuristic golden half-moons.

Versace is the first show of the Paris couture season, but if you were expecting a hushed atmosphere and maybe even a glass of Champagne, you were quickly disabused of these notions — it is, in fact, a seatless, booze-less affair, with the sulky models descending a shiny metallic staircase to nowhere.

On the other hand, although you may have to stand, at least you are in the house. The Chanel show, where the audience is ensconced in a facsimile of an airplane and a cart decorated with double-Cs is pushed through the aisle, can only be described through hearsay, as there is not even a coach seat next to the toilet to accommodate you: lest you felt smugly that you were in the one percent — of fashion writers anyway — your lack of a ticket pitches you rapidly into the realm of the other 99. But buck up, and remember what your old friend Eleanor Roosevelt (a person who could have afforded couture, if she wanted it) used to say: “Every woman in public life needs to develop skin as tough as rhinoceros hide.”

The thick exterior of the rhino is safe from danger this week, but not so the luckless crocodile, whose scales are employed at Christian Dior to form a little jacket atop a sheer skirt enhanced with some kind of inscription. It is rumored that it is a quote from the late Mr. Dior about elegance, or something, but as the models parade to the ubiquitous strains of Lana del Ray, you can’t help but wish that the ensemble said, “I heard that you like the bad girls — honey, is that true?”

Jean Paul Gaultier apparently likes a bad girl, alive or dead.  The vibrant ghost of Amy Winehouse animates his runway, in a show dedicated to the late singer. The models have her beehive, her beauty mark, and her dangling cigarette, and an a cappela quartet intones her songs as over 70 looks — everything from a pencil skirt covered with micro-mosaic black beads (but does this necessarily make it a better pencil skirt?) to a witchy Red Riding Hood cloak to a Victorian puffed-sleeved cat-woman suit— come down the runway. It’s a curious affair, somewhere between creepy necromania and moving tribute, and though you may question the taste of the whole endeavor, ask yourself: Wouldn’t Amy have loved it?

If a model in a corset and a mourning veil is not your idea of a good time, you may prefer the offerings at Valentino, where there are enough high necks and long puffy sleeves to outfit a huge extended family of modest Mormons next January, should that be our nation’s fate. So many of the silhouettes reside somewhere between Laura Ashley and Branch Davidian that it comes as a relief to see the occasional strapless frock, even if it is rendered in a candy-box pastel. Which is not to say that the intricacies of the handwork aren’t superb: One especially breathtaking number has white blossoms floating magically over a golden mesh field, an astonishing achievement by the nameless petit mains responsible for its execution.

Still, after this overdose of saccharine, you may be happy to never see another florette ever again, even if its tendrils are made of spun angel’s hair. So it comes as a relief to visit the riveting presentation at Givenchy. Riccardo Tisci, like his couture compatriots, doesn’t stint on insanely lavish technique, but here it is put in service of a younger, tougher vision. The very best dress — in fact the best dress of the whole week — is a white beaded number over a white tank top, and held up on one shoulder by a chunky silver chain, as if intended for a dissolute modern-day Daisy Buchanan. “She dressed in white and had a little white roadster,” Fitzgerald wrote of his tragic heroine. And her voice, he added, was “full of money.”

See the Complete Spring 2012 Versace Couture Collection

See the Complete Spring 2012 Chanel Couture Collection

See the Complete Spring 2012 Christian Dior Couture Collection

See the Complete Spring 2012 Jean Paul Gaultier Couture Collection

See the Complete Spring 2012 Valentino Couture Collection

See the Complete Spring 2012 Givenchy Couture Collection

Lynn Yaeger: Spring 2012 Couture Wrap Up