In Paris, fashion embraces plus-size women

From rock and romance to space-age chic, next summer's racks have something for all tastes – and all sizes!

Paris embraced plus-size fashion this weekend, when US rock outfit Gossip's larger-than-life frontwoman Beth Ditto opened a three-dimensional fashion show by Jean Paul Gaultier.

The French enfant terrible’s "rock and romantic" summer look went "from XXS to XXL".

"What counts is personality, there is not just the one form of stereotyped beauty," Gaultier told reporters backstage. "The collections' pleats can be worn by any size, and adapt to different body shapes," he said.

Loyal admirer Catherine Deneuve took up a front-row seat, donning 3D glasses to sample the full depth of the silk prints worn by the singer and the first group of models. With boyish 1980s short hair and coloured eyelids, Gaultier's woman walked out in short jackets over pleated harem pants and chunky boots.

Jean jackets were stitched with white or red on shoulders that jutted out into a square shape, paired with slimline pants to sculpt a slender silhouette. Red leather bloomers were matched with varnished red boots laced up to the knee.

One of a kind among the supermodels – including the American Karlie Kloss who opened the show, as at Dior and Sonia Rykiel – a generous-figured model stepped out in a blood-red dress, followed by a body-hugging stretch print.

Jeans were married with black lace, used to extend a skirt, while Gaultier's signature sailor stripe cropped up in a pair of harem pants, or a small layered top in red or blue. And fish-net tights popped up out of context – as a bustier over a white blouse or above the designer's trademark powder-pink corset.

"You know, we often tug at our underwear, and some women tend to pull their pantyhose up too high. So here I decided to bring them right up above the chest," quipped the designer.

Closing the show, Ditto walked back out in fish-net tights and black shorts under a dress of tulle and pale pink flowers, singing a cappella before throwing the microphone to the ground – and handing Gaultier a glass of bubbly.

Viktor and Rolf

Starched, rumpled, puffed-up or stretched down to the ankles: that most masculine of staples, a plain shirt, was the launchpad for the playful summer look unveiled Saturday by design duo Viktor and Rolf.

The Dutch pair set themselves a clear road-map for the Tuileries Gardens show in Paris, taking place mid-way through the capital's marathon ready-to-wear shows for spring/summer 2011.

"The shirt is a beautiful, focused, icon that is in itself masculine," Viktor Horsting told reporters backstage afterwards.

"We wanted this symbol of masculinity to undergo extreme transformation," added his design partner Rolf Snoeren. "To transform it into something very feminine."

Shirt-tops made of densely layered silk ribbons had an ostrich-feather look, their arms adorned with cuff after cuff that grew in size like Russian dolls, and the same concertina-effect from multiple collars around the neck.

Long-tailed grandpa shirts fell down to the ankles, worn over striped leggings or mini shorts with thick, high-heeled shoes in lacquered red, or cowgirl boots in red or blue. Floaty, transparent versions had silk tails that flowed out through the legs of mini-shorts, at front and back.

Cocktail dresses were half city shirt – ballooned over the shoulder and one side of the body – and half applique stretch jersey, in combinations of black and white, or black and turquoise. One had zebra-stripes girding puffed, starched white fabric in bands around the body, stopping at mid-thigh.

And for the finale: a punky rendition of Billy Idol's "White Wedding", ushered in a bridal collection that took the show's play on masculine-feminine to the extreme.

The Viktor and Rolf bride wore blouses puffed out baby-bird like over the back and shoulders, then pulled in around the waist with body-clinging fine lace embroidery, under visor-like veils of rigid white net. Or for a more purist look, others had irregular-sized starched-looking white panels wrapped and layered around the body, pulled in by a thick, empire-line cummerbund to form a bare-shouldered bustier and generous skirt.

Sonia Rykiel

Roomy dungarees in tawny orange or dusty pink, knitted stripes on dresses, tops and shorts, platform sandals and huge, fuzzy hair: Sonia Rykiel took Paris on a trip to the 1970s on Saturday.

"Golden Brown" by the Stranglers set the tone for designer Nathalie Rykiel's spring/summer look for next year, unveiled mid-way through the Paris ready-to-wear shows.

Dungarees, worn over naked skin, came in all shapes and sizes: black with red spots and white flecks, with tapered legs and a thick satin bow across the back, or sexy and loose in dusty pink.

Body-hugging knitted dresses were a patchwork of muted colour, from rust-brown to mustard yellow or ochre, with two-tone patches on the elbows and knees, with one model wearing rust-and-black stripe from head to toe.

Riotous, curly hair burst out from under charcoal grey rain hats, while thick ribbons circled the ankle above platform sandals. Rows of shiny brass buttons cropped up along the seams of raincoats, or down the side of wide-legged cropped pants.

Rykiel's woman was relaxed and comfy through till evening – when she stepped out in a loose, fuchsia pink dress with huge kimono sleeves, or a bare-armed, low-cut knitted dress in dust pink with a flowing yellow panel down the front.

And for the finale, Rykiel re-ran her full colour spectrum in a collection of pin-up knitted swimwear.

Lanvin

Long pleated skirts that swirl and spin around body-hugging tops: Alber Elbaz hopes that his light-as-air new look for Lanvin, unveiled on Friday, will make women "feel they can fly."

"Strong and sensual", Lanvin's woman dared to step out in flat sandals and draped toga dresses that shine for their simplicity, in a palette of sustained colours dominated by desert tones and blues.

US singers Janet Jackson and Lenny Kravitz and the burlesque strip-artist Dita von Teese were among the famous faces who sipped bubbly while waiting for the spring/summer ready-to-wear show to kick off – a good hour late.

Simple short sleeveless dresses were worn with wide belts, under silky drapes that wrap around the shoulders and slide down the body. Navy blue was layered on lighter ice blue or chestnut, or khaki on green.

Stretchy ankle-length dresses hugged the figure, sometimes revealing a rounded shoulder. Others, in tight pleated fabric, were an explosive cocktail of bright colours, greys and mustards. Crystal-embroidered cocktail dresses were paired with stiletto heels.

Five black models, wearing leaf-motif silk prints, closed the show to warm applause. Backstage, Kravitz said he found the collection "both simple and dynamic".

For Alber Elbaz, the biggest challenge of all is to "make confort glamorous". Fashion should be "a second skin, that allows women to be beautiful but also makes them feel good. They have to feel that, dressed like this, they could fly away."

Pierre Cardin

Space-age bodysuits met fairytale bridal gear, outsized bell hats and rubber jewellery on Wednesday as veteran designer Pierre Cardin took Paris on a four-season tour of his fashion universe.

Returning after a long absence, the 88-year-old offered day two of Paris Fashion Week a ready-to-wear look for men and women largely stamped with 1960s pop and sci-fi futurism.

But Cardin's classical styles also got a look-in with floaty evening wear, earthy tweed jackets, and pastel patterned frocks that seemed more fit for an English wedding party than a trip to the galaxy's outer rims. Opening the show just off the Champs Elysees, Cardin sent out twin his-and-her full-body suits in bold pink, with wire rings defining the knees, that looked plucked straight out of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey".

Followed a series in thick wetsuit-like fabric, also coming as his-and-her variations, in black, silver and purple and worn with visor-like shades and headbands studded with black rubber bolts and spikes. Other bodysuits were worn loose and flowing, in shimmery bright pinks or silvers, gathered only at the ankles and wrists.

Wristbands, necklaces and ankle bracelets fashioned from bunches of rubber tubes -- in eye-popping pink, orange or green – sprouted from the edges of black tops and pants, while the men's boots were studded with metal at the rim.

In more earthly fare, Cardin's young woman wore pop-coloured mini-dresses with froo-froo skirts of red or yellow, bursting out from beneath skin-tight, bare-shoulder silver tops, or A-line trenchcoats in shiny blue, orange or pink.

Bulbous berets or outzised bell-hats defined the look throughout, and bags were supersized too, whether a silver clutch purse or a floppy market bag with giant metal loops for handles.

One giant fuschia beret was perched above a bat-wing cape and slinky trousers -- offered in green or mauve, while an elfin pointed hat grabbed the eye above a demure ribbed sweater and slinky trouser set.

The French designer rounded off with a line of conventional jacket-and-trouser combos, followed by cocktail dresses in a riot of shimmery pastels, sequined purples and greens, with translucent strips of fabric flowing from the or shoulders.

For the finale, the evening wear lost its colours to reappear as a bridal collection, with the models reworked in richly-embroidered silk or in one case with a full bustle train.
 

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