“This is the way you want to live?” the Leading Player asks Pippin,who has decided to scale down his aspirations in favor of a simplerlife. “No costumes?...And no magic!”

The line resonated deeplywith at least one audience member. “What would life be without [thecostumes, makeup, etc.]?” Marc Jacobs recalled thinking. “Nah, not anordinary life, not interested in that. Let’s do what we love, and do alot of it.”

A lot is exactly what Jacobs showed, and it was extraordinary.

It’stoo tidy to attribute Jacobs’ remarkable closure of the New York seasonon Thursday night to a single Broadway trigger; his thought process andwork are seldom so linear. The show sprung as well from a lamp shade(the braid trim); past collections (Violet Incredible; military)long-invoked influences (Courtney Love) and the feeling that nannyoversight has taken the Goth out of Gotham. “It doesn’t seem likethere’s much decadence anymore,” Jacobs said during a preview. “I’m notallowed to smoke in the park. I’m not allowed to walk my dog in thegrass.” He then thought of instances of brazen self-expression — artistPaul McCarthy’s show at the uptown armory; the Burning Man Festival(even though he’s never been). And why fashion is so obsessed with newand modern. What, if anything, do those concepts mean, and who cares,anyway?

Somehow he fermented all of these swirling thoughts intoa complex treatise on Victorian decadence: dark, dangerous and utterlycompelling. The set, a highly stylized post-catastrophe beach litteredwith debris — broken lifeguard chair; frozen treats fridge; ancient,rusted bus — was designed to look like a stage set midway throughdeconstruction. The opening music, the theme from “Jaws,” got heartsracing beyond the palpitations brought on by the venue’s extreme heat.

Buthere was no wanton beach party. Rather, Jacobs went dark and weighty infact as well as mood, to a degree that flew in the face of traditionalnotions of spring dressing and which, from a merch standpoint, willsurely be controversial. The overall look was opulent, the day clotheseither riffs on old, elegant officers’ jackets worn over re-fabricatedsurf shorts or loose-cut dresses and sweatshirts in thick velours.Evening presented a mesmerizing parade of slightly deranged-lookingVictorian heroines in mourning — their darkness highlighted by intricateembroideries.

Though impossible to detail the work in theseclothes (at least on tight deadline), it is not exaggeration to notethat they approached couture in beauty and craftsmanship. Everything —including bags, moccasins and sandals — was embroidered, sequined,appliquéd, braided and tasseled beyond reason (Jacobs joked that thereisn’t a whorehouse in all of France that could find enough trim for athrow pillow).

But then, as he sees it, fashion is the farthestthing from reason. Is a dress or jacket modern? Is it too dark forspring, too heavy, too this, too that? “It doesn’t matter,” Jacobs said.“All that matters is, do you want it or don’t you? Does it pull at yourheart like fashion is supposed to? Like I said from Pippin, what wouldlife be like without all of this?” So bring it on — the costumes, thetassels, the fringe, the dark magic.

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