Rarely have flowers been rendered as compellingly as in “The Roses of Heliogabalus,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s painting of the decadent Roman emperor Heliogabalus attempting to smother his audience with rose petals.

In his spring couture collection, Elie Saab aimed for a similar effect, showering a cascade of fabric petals on evening gowns inspired by the Victorian painter’s oeuvre. Rendered in several layers of silk chiffon, the blossoms took on a soft-focus quality on a powder-pink Empire-line dress with sheer long sleeves. They appeared to sprout three-dimensionally from a hydrangea-blue bustier gown with an ample skirt.

The painterly effects were most striking on a trio of gazar dresses with a multicolored floral print that gradually faded into white.

Dresses with extra voluminous skirts were guaranteed to make an entrance, but Saab knows how to engineer an exit, too. His Grecian-pleated gowns, in alluring shades of pale blue, yellow and coral, wafted long strips of chiffon in their wake.  

In a season where many designers are giving couture a youthful spin, Saab clung to a more traditional approach to the craft. Yet he displayed a light hand with creations such as a poppy-colored Fifties-style tulle cocktail dress. Who can argue with tradition when the result is this enchanting?

Rarely have flowers been rendered as compellingly as in “The Roses of Heliogabalus,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s painting of the decadent Roman emperor Heliogabalus attempting to smother his audience with rose petals.


In his spring couture collection, Elie Saab aimed for a similar effect, showering a cascade of fabric petals on evening gowns inspired by the Victorian painter’s oeuvre. Rendered in several layers of silk chiffon, the blossoms took on a soft-focus quality on a powder-pink Empire-line dress with sheer long sleeves. They appeared to sprout three-dimensionally from a hydrangea-blue bustier gown with an ample skirt.

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