One of the highlights of this week’s Couture schedule is sure to be the opening of the Musée Galliera’s new show, Les Années 50, La Mode en France 1947-1957, curated by the fashion savant Olivier Saillard. In a timely coincidence, Donatella Versace revisited the decade for her Atelier Versace collection tonight. That starting point marks a departure for the designer, who has lately found muses in the likes of Lady Gaga and Grace Jones, and inspiration from more contemporary reference points, like nineties grunge.
Donatella’s fifties, of course, were different from the Galliera’s fifties. Her round-shouldered, boned-waist jacket featured a strategic cutout at the shoulder with a gold buckle to suspend it in place. A slit-front bustier dress, meanwhile, was a dress in name only; one of the legs of the model who wore it was covered with a pant. These were among the strongest looks in the collection, confidently executed and rigorously structured. In some ways, they were the polar opposite of the navel-baring, slit-up-to-there tropical-print dress of Donatella’s that Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammys back in 2000, simultaneously cementing both divas’ places in red-carpet history. Lopez was in the front row tonight, poured into a strapless corseted gown with gold buckles at the hip. But if Versace’s techniques are more sophisticated now, it was and always will be about flaunting the assets at this house.
Also percolating was the notion of taking something as simple and everyday as the T-shirt and rendering it haute by covering it in crystals and beads and draping it into an hourglass evening dress. Side by side, these dresses didn’t have the precision of the opening numbers—though perhaps because of that fact, they will be fun and sexy to wear. A few fringed pieces made from crinoline, with fine strips of patent leather embroidered on top, somewhat muddled the message.
For the finale, it was back to the fifties, but as before, with a generous tweak. A powdery pink silk-duchesse satin ball gown came slit up the middle, fully revealing the black Swarovski crystal bodysuit it was strapped and buckled to. “I am Versace,” the designer said beforehand, explaining the piece’s brazen cut and construction. “I have to show it to the world.”
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