Close your eyes. Now think, modern pagan goddess. What comes to mind? A toga-decked she-warrior? A priestly presence, co-opting elements of ecclesiastical regalia? A nymph in airy, glittering tulle? A glam, recently wed bombshell wearing natural assets including, but not limited to, a big smile and a dress slashed to there?

All of the above graced the Valentino show Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered on Wednesday, the last, located front-row rather than runway. Kim Kardashian sat bookended by Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti, providing the rest of the crowd with terrific preshow viewing. That pop culture’s current goddess of indiscretion — looking great in her own way — was there to take in the wares of a house now known for elegant restraint made for some kind of contrast — and an example of what’s wonderful (and wonderfully absurd) about fashion.

The designers channeled the pre-Raphaelite era for their goddesses, naming looks after Elizabeth Siddal and Sibylla Palmifera. “We love the idea that the artists looked to the past to create something new,” Chiuri said backstage. “That’s what we try to do.” And so they did, to splendid effect. They took concepts with classical and religious resonance — tunic, chasuble, draping, gladiator sandal — and worked them into numbers that radiated the power of gentility. Some were utterly plain, as the crepe tunics and gowns; others, done in unfussy intarsia motifs. Others still were crafted from rarefied materials, even by haute standards: A skirt and coat were made from museum-worthy pieces of 17th-century tapestries.

Along the way, the designers showed lovely comfort with the Valentino woman’s sensual side. They wrapped uncorseted bodices in crisscrossed leather strips, often in provocative contrast to the fabrics beneath, including gorgeously embroidered tulle. Conversely, they made quite a point of daywear. A lavishly embellished coat-and-dress ensemble screamed haute, while a floor-sweeping mohair coat preferred to whisper.

Either way, there was a wealth of clothes for the range of Valentino customers to love, maybe even Kim. Fashion — you’ve got to love it.


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