Fashionistas, rejoice!

By SHARON STEEL  |  November 9, 2006

JOHN GALLIANO FOR CHRISTIAN DIOR: It wouldn’t be a museum piece if it came with a price tag.
 Although it would be equally interesting to know how much the Elizabethan-themed bright-red silk-taffeta-and-leather couture dress by John Galliano for Christian Dior costs, that one wouldn’t be a museum piece if it came with a price tag. The mystery here isn’t such a bad thing. Galliano’s work is steeped in shock value, and his particular platform is one of the exhibit’s main draws. The girls stomping down his runway — a projector loops the runway video and music from the show featuring each of the designers’ 10 looks — are made up into pissy, pre-rehab Courtney Loves, the soundtrack is creepy as hell, and the hand painting on a billowing, high-slit gown may as well be dripping blood. Among Victor & Rolf’s trenchcoats and party dresses, one called “Camilla” is a cotton-taffeta cocktail number with a bodice silvered to the point where a model might have to snap it open and shut it on as if it were a mirrored compact. It’s impeccably made and remarkably pretty to look at, especially in comparison with the avant-garde selections here. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s artisanal collection (including a waistcoat of crumpled, shellacked playing cards) and Azzedine Alaï’s haughty goat-fur jackets — these two abstract displays are easy enough to skip past in favor of the striking or the passionately romantic, such as Valentino’s airy embroidered ensembles.

Didier Grumbach, president of the French Fashion Federation and an instrumental force in the development of “Fashion Show,” remarked at the press preview that Boston was chosen as the place to launch the exhibit because this city, “unlike New York City or California, makes designers feel safe.” Was he implying, as others have before him, that Bostonians lack true style, that we don’t know a dainty bolero from a Cosby-era sweater vest? Christian Lacroix might think this is a non-judgmental place to parade his flashy goods — though it’s doubtful he’ll be in attendance at the Downtown Crossing and Newbury Street H&Ms today, when Viktor & Rolf’s line is sure to open to frantic, delighted crowds. Regardless of how Boston measures on the cosmopolitan scale, “Fashion Show” pushes the inviting and charming elements of fashion — the clothes themselves — to the forefront. It asks that you forget the backstabbing and the drama you expect to see on television and ignore the convoluted fashion editorspeak splashed on the pages of glossy magazines. The irrational, nasty side of the beauty industry has never been much of a secret; setting that image aside, taking in what is most lovely and presenting it as something fine — that’s what’s new and novel. It’s also anything but safe.

“Fashion Show: Paris Collections 2006” | MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS | NOVEMBER 12–MARCH 18

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