“My girl back home I’d almost forgot,” goes the song from South Pacific. Drop the “almost,” and it could be the anthem of the sailors populating John Galliano’s imaginary Polynesian naval base, where the seafaring residents can feast their eyes on a lineup of Bettie Page look-alikes with froth on their dresses and mischief on their minds.
With Paris in the throes of a men’s wear/boys’ wear moment, how clever of Galliano to set sail. That way, he could wink at the motif with — what else? — sailor pants, including a pair in khaki with a navy shirt for the collection’s butchest look, and also with fabulous casual jackets. But those items and his girls’ jaunty sailor caps were as far as Galliano rode the man wagon. Trend or not, his women prefer to look like women. Thus, this collection was really about the Bettie Brigade that stormed the base. Its troops wore mostly flirtatious short dresses — no below-the-knee discretion here — and if, every now and then, a roomy parka made the mood more casual, all the better. Though Galliano’s focus was singular, his dresses were anything but. They came lean and full-skirted, some fashioned from fabric ropes knotted and twisted into “don’t-call-it-macramé” styles. These were worked in a range of feisty tropical colors and prints, and often embroidered. As for extras, Galliano showed a savvy handbag range. And what would island chic be without some flowers strung into leis?
At night, exotica reigned in featherlight gowns with rich embroideries and not a smoking in sight. Because, by Galliano’s lights, when it’s time to dress up, there’s nothing like a dame.