Peter Jensen, a Dane living in London, always finds an obscure muse to get him started. This season, it was a northern Renaissance princess, Christina of Denmark, who jumped out at him from a 1538 painting in the recent Holbein exhibition at the Tate Britain. He studied her coif and browless, alabaster looks, and observed her sober, black fur-trimmed mourning coat and white, high-frilled blouse, then turned his back and started playing around.
The result, as always, had a kind of truehearted mix of Scandinavian inventiveness and practicality about it. Long, meringue ball gowns made of bunchy black nylon were layered over black sweaters; sensible wool checks were bias cut into jackets and coats; and funny little gray knitted hoods came off somewhere between medieval armor and jokey cats¿ ears.
Jensen¿s grounded focus on making nice-and-normal things to wear saved his theme from any pretentious historicism. What he¿s good at is providing interesting variations on young and sporty pieces like, say, teal corduroy shirtwaisters and jacketsthe kind of honest, everyday stuff other designers overlook in the rush to make statements. On the other hand, the velvet-wrapped hair and pale Holbein makeup gave this tenth-anniversary collection quite enough charm to maintain the balance between art and commerce.