Valentino AW16 show Paris Fashion Week
© Catwalking

A word about the waist. For a few seasons now, the waist has been an area of fetish: belted high, just below the bust, and carb-denyingly slender. It’s still rather tiny, this is fashion, but lately a number of houses have relaxed their grip on the upper torso to allow for a bit more freedom of movement. At Balenciaga I was thrilled to see a shapely waisted bandeau dress in black embroidered velvet that neither clung nor forced the body into a corset (as one sees so often elsewhere). Instead of contouring the stomach, it brushed against it kindly, allowing for the fact that a woman might want to maybe sit down or breathe of an evening out.

At Valentino, under the creative supervision of Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, who have long essayed a line in lean androgyny and an almost prepubescent body type, the waist was also looser to allow for greater fluidity. The AW16 collection was inspired by modern choreographers Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham and the designers had melded “the dry precision of sartorial discipline” with “floral graciousness” to create a collection in which nude silk jersey tops and ballerina skirts danced with heavy biker boots and more rigorous but lightweight military-style coats.

Silky strappy tops were tied at the back like a dancer’s leotard, while skinny polo-necks in camel, flesh and grey calmed embroidered chiffons and velvets. Jersey dresses were more relaxed and drapey (some loosely belted with ribbon just above the hip); fine-pleat skirts brushed the mid-calf. Some of the looks were shiny and transparent, diamanté studded skirts seemed almost showerproof.

The last few looks were pure Valentino confection; great clouds of fleshy, nude tulle, some embroidered with hearts and flowers and worn with a new nude strappy “Rockstud” slipper, a round-toed version of the house’s hit shoe. Personally, I preferred the meatier military looks in navy, worn with oversized shirts and purposeful cross-body handbags. They added a shot of reality to so much frothy, frilly romance. All in all, it was a very satisfying pas de deux.

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