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Oh, we of little faith. Just as despair for the fate of couture starts to well up, in rushes Christian Lacroix in a flourish of haute glory. Fear not, he comforts the confounded with each exit. Real couture is still out there, and at its best, it can still take your breath away.

Lacroix is not without a theatrical penchant, expressed here in his models’ jeweled Prince Valiant wigs and colorful, opaque hose beaded past the ankle to extend the shoe’s decorative motifs. He opened with two of the most ordinary wardrobe items imaginable, trenchcoat and parka, elevating each to elitist perfection, the former a huge triangle tiered in back; the latter, a lavish fur-laden brocade over a simple dress. This proved a theme of the collection, as time and again, a model would slip off her elaborate coat — bands of fox and lace; fox-trimmed silver leaf on felt — to reveal a short, flirty dress. The notable control didn’t end there, as Lacroix also did a series of little black dresses sans coats that looked anything but anonymous.

Throughout, the lineup swayed from storybook fantasy to considerable restraint. One did notice the absence of the designer’s characteristic multifabric reveries, but this only allowed the clothes to breathe a bit more freely while radiating the same brilliance. Evening featured ballgowns with Old World constructions and intricately draped goddess jerseys. Lacroix also rendered a romantic, rumpled negligee in silvery organza over a blue Empire sheath with relative simplicity. As in simply divine.

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