The Posh Lady Lightens Up at Paris Fashion Week

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With Paris Fashion Week, the final leg of the four-week runway season, now underway, we’re beginning to get a sense of the overall direction of the spring collections. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d describe it as: Posh lady has come undone. Or better yet: Lighten up.

The word that comes to mind most often looking at the shows, from New York’s slipping-off slip dresses to Milan’s over-the-top decorative streak, is playful. Here in Paris, the lightness of mood came through most expressively in Clare Waight Keller’s amusing show for Chloé on Thursday morning. Keller’s first thought seemed to be to embrace the athleisure movement with some fun track pants and jackets with athletic stripes, although god knows they are not made for the gym. The pants were so wide you’d trip over yourself on the treadmill (pictured, top).

Mixed with her signature floating parachute dresses, this season rendered in patchworks of pastel lace, and rainbow stripes, and rope sandals rendered in the national colors of Jamaica, the overall effect was pure fun, and the attitude as easy-going and laidback as Chloé gals tend to be. Who else would wear rainbow harem pants trailing multi-colored tassels that would delight, or possibly torture, a cat (pictured, below)?

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Dries Van Noten similarly embraced the eclectic with a mash-up of prints, ruffles, and body-stockings that gave the illusion of full-body tattoos (pictured, below left). Surprisingly, the results were a little more subdued, but that’s in comparison to so much visual action happening everywhere else. And his clothes, as always, were so shopable when you take the looks apart, particularly a navy double-breasted coat with a sliver of hot pink ruffles (pictured, below right).

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VIDEO: See Our 1-Minute Review of Dries Van Noten's #PFW Show

Two other collections shown here already stood out for their exceptional craftsmanship and cohesiveness. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen of The Row offered excellent wrap coats and beautifully finished dresses that were trimmed with perfect French stitches. Their clothes are expensive, but wow, do they deliver on the goods. And Lemaire, the label of Christophe Lemaire and his partner, Sarah-Linh Tran, was expanded this season with an amazing offering of thoughtful sportswear, including denim or white cotton trousers that billowed like sails before tapering off at the ankle, in addition to more signature full smock dresses in neutral tones quiet enough to appeal to a smart gallerist (both pictured, below).

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The Maison Margiela collection has always been wide open to interpretation, simply because the founding designer so rarely spoke to the press, and the current one, John Galliano, is largely allowing the clothes to speak for themselves. My take was that the spring collection offered a way forward, more closely in line with Galliano’s views of fashion, only slightly muddled by the perplexities of the Margiela mystique. Here, the posh lady, in skirt suits, prim coats, or overlay dresses with big fractured mirrored pieces beneath, looked a little disheveled. Some of the models were men, and, in fact, the best look of the collection, a black halter-top tucked into trousers, was worn by one, but cross-dressing and gender ambiguity have been seen around the runways for a bit, so I wouldn’t read too much into that, other than a designer who is trying to be inventive. Galliano’s evening dresses were particularly pleasing in this regard, one trimmed with renderings of white birds that were created using a pattern of safety pins (watch the video below for more).

VIDEO: Watch Our 47-Second Recap of Maison Margiela's Spring 2016 Runway Show

Eric Wilson is InStyle's fashion news director. For more real-time insights from #PFW, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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