What unites people all over the globe, across the divides of gender, age, sexual preference, religious creed, and nationality; carries the promise of eternal happiness; and, has (all being well) some rather fabulous ensembles into the bargain? Score zero if you said Beyoncé’s next world tour. The answer is, of course, weddings. The universality of marriage, and all its attendant finery, was the theme that Jean Paul Gaultier alighted on for his first haute couture collection since shuttering his ready-to-wear business in a blowout show last fall.
One might argue that showing myriad variations on the wedding dress was a pretty shrewd business move on Monsieur Gaultier’s part, since they’re often what drives women to spend gazillions of euros ordering The Dress for The Biggest Day Of Their Lives at Paris’s couture houses. But this is Jean Paul Gaultier, and where there is a theme, there is usually humor—in this case, there was as much here for first-time brides as there was for the first (or indeed second or third) wives club—veiling waspish and sharply observed social critique. The most romantic act can, as America is discovering with same-sex marriage, also be politically charged. (Let’s hope the U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of not allowing it to be constitutionally banned or go unrecognized in four states later this spring when it weighs in.)
Gaultier didn’t let that changing face of modern marriage pass him by, so much of what was shown here focused on the idea of joining together the traditionally grand froufrou wedding dresses with the clothes of the groom, creating looks that through the miraculous work of his ateliers were able to brilliantly fuse feminine and masculine codes into single asymmetric looks. Other times, he transformed the likes of a tuxedo trousers’ satin side band or a bride’s headpiece into something sportier, morphing them into an athletic track pant stripe or a baseball cap which spoke directly to his love of the street. Yet there was more than witty and wonderful wedding shenanigans going on here. Offering up a diametrically opposed viewpoint on what haute couture can be, Gaultier elevated the prosaic cardigan into some madly chic things, whether it was a belted version in gold chain mail edged with shards of Swarovski crystals, worn with fluid black smokingpants, or transformed into a long evening dress worked to superb effect with beading that resembled Burmese python skin; the kind of refined and glamorously grown-up things that plenty of the loyal Gaultierites in the audience would be thrilled to say “I do” to.