Couture is for the few, which means that the enthusiasm around the shows and the “trends” they might inspire feels like a head-mirror. (How can a dress that exists in one or two copies be a trend?! Well, I’m sure the fast fashion animals are cooking up plushy lion heads mounted on polyester tubes as we speak…) In the Spring 2023 season, however, when the shows bring the glamor of international wealth to cold Paris, another possibility comes to mind: Oscar dresses.
Chanel, Armani, and Valentino are major players in the celebrity dressing game, each having revitalized the red carpet in their own way. Chanel expresses French feminine pleasure, and Valentino has made the dressing feel young, lively. As for Armani, he practically invented the red carpet dressing system in the 1990s, and last year, I received a PR pitch saying that something like 30% of Oscar winners expected their statues in Armani. Does the dress bring good luck, or does the brand have great taste? (Maybe both: Michelle Yeoh, nominated for her role in Everything everywhere all at oncesat up front at this week’s show.)
These shows, for the season that came to an end on Thursday evening, can make us all armchair personal stylists. You see the dress and start dreaming about the talent. (I’ll admit that when I saw that wild two-piece Chanel set at Dior, I immediately thought of Anya Taylor-Joy, who was sitting in the front row.) So let’s play a fantasy red carpet set, Oscars edition!
The Chanel Spring couture collection was fun and youthful, with lots of A-line shapes and mini dresses and skirts, displayed among giant animals made of wood, cardboard, and paper by artist (and regular Chanel collaborator) Xavier Vielhan. The text of the exhibition noted that “Chanel’s dress borrows its codes from parade women’s uniforms and glasses”—and what are the Oscars, if not spectacles. and a parade?!
With the red carpet on the red carpet, actresses still tend to go a long way for the Academy Awards. Still, Kirsten Stewart at last year’s ceremony in Chanel hot pants, and the cool soigné of mini dresses in this couture collection, made me wonder if mini could be a thing for a Chanel attendant. Margot Robbie, say, who starred as multiple nominees, would look incredible in the gold sequin A-line coat, or a white sequin tank dress with a glitzy tweed front that wraps the hips into a ball of tulle. Babylon. (Robbie’s regular Chanel was not present at the show, although her stylist Kate Young was).
Meanwhile, in the dress department, things were opulently effortless: a nude tank dress covered with bursts of ivory sequins and topped with a white tweed coat, and a strapless metallic truffle dress, essentially a gold brocade minidress with, long force, and drop waist Polka-dot metal swoops over it. (Imagine Angela Bassett in that tank dress and that coat. Imagine!!!) The lightness of the fabrics—so much sheer silk, layered over gold and silver—and the simplicity of the tank dress or the pulley silhouettes made it he looks very attractive. casual. And chic – the kind of chic where you pull your hair back and apply the perfect red lip, but the way you wear the dress oozes effortless. One dress in particular embodied this beauty: a slip dress underneath embroidered with small leaves, with a sheer waist dress and a ruffled, sequined hem. The model frowned, and her hands were in her pockets. Ahhh. A dress with pockets! That’s confidence!
Over at Armani Privé, the designer was feeling playful. Giorgio Armani is thought of as the beige, tasteful dress designer, and indeed it is (and thank God for it!). But his Privé collections also reflect his subtle sense of whimsy; I still think of a black velvet cap dress from his Fall 2018 collection adorned with tiny gold beads in the shape of crossed arms. Imagine talking to her at a party – the urge to impress would be almost overwhelming!
The entire Spring 2023 show was inspired by harlequins, who seem very much in commedia dell’arte, the Italian Renaissance’s answer to Tinseltown. The focus on beautiful jackets with great pants, always an Armani swoon point, here in a palette of pale sand pinks, jewel blues, and harlequin prints, reminds us that this master of elegance knows how to smile . But he does so with a mischievous smile rather than anything remotely like a meme, which is rare.
To that end, it was a joy to see women on the red carpet in a sequin-bow top under an organza clown collar and perfect swishy harlequin trousers sprayed with midnight blue beads. Or even the pale pink, turquoise, and black silk satin evening jacket and matching pleated trousers.
But again! We have to be realistic. The looks are risky for the red carpet. And a long, milky pink column gown covered in slinky beads, with a gorgeous beaded pink flower on the neck and wrists, has “Oscar winner” written all over it. Likewise for a dress that begins, at the neck, with a weathered crosshatch pattern that slowly spreads down the body in full-scale harlequin diamonds. With small sequin bows on the shoulders! WOW. What a dress!
Now let’s spoil Valentino. Pierpaolo Piccioli’s couture remains so popular, among celebrities and armchair fashion watchers, because it is expressive and highly emotional while remaining classic. He’s offered many excellent short looks (and even some clown collars!) but his dresses are so clean and stunning that an actor would be foolish to forget them.
I love an eggplant taffeta dress with a ruched bodice and trumpet skirt and a big tomato bow on the shoulder, styled with cotton candy pink opera gloves. (Any actor who wears this will spend make the gloves! FOR THE GLOVES!) Then there was a spangly gold T-shirt dress to split up until then (you have to admit that it so fun when attendees dress like the Oscars), and a ruffly pink polka dot strapless dress that said, “I’m just here to have fun,” something I wish was said more often on the red carpet.
I cannot end this piece without talking about Haider Ackermann’s extraordinary couture show for Jean Paul Gaultier, which was as “pure” as he promised. in our interview last week. Tilda Swinton and Timothée Chalamet were present, and I imagine that almost everyone who tweets obsessively about high fashion is crossing all their fingers hoping that the stars will show up at the Academy Awards in Ackermann Gaultier looks.
Ackermann told me he enjoys being quiet—”it suits me better.” It was a testament to purity, quality, technical finesse, and connoisseurship, and the fact that it was so widely praised makes me wonder if there is a hunger for knowledge, someone hungry for information and a joyful snobbish about their vast understanding on culture and fashion. new influence.
I wrote earlier this week about how wonderful it is that Paris Couture Week has space for designers who whisper their work and those who cry. Ackermann’s masterful show – made all the better by sauntering models who stopped at the end of the runway and gave a big face – proved that those who insisted on whispering really could succeed. This collection was pure poetry.
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