Couture embraces worlds. The day that began with Elie Saab's stolid womanliness ended with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli's reconceptualization of Val's gal as a dolly bird—all short skirt, dropped waist, baby doll, and kitten heels. The mood was compounded by the name the designers gave their collection: The Dark Side of First Love. If that notion has a Lolita tinge, Chiuri and Piccioli made the clothes to match. They even dropped a cage over one girl to let you know she was trapped.
Teen psychodrama may fit with the kind of "dark side" idea they've sometimes toyed with in the past, but it was downright peculiar in a couture context. Still, as a pitch to a much younger customer (and those girls were out in force in the front row today), the collection was a major success on its own terms: haute couture for the Twilight generation. From the little black dresses in gazar that opened the show to a trapeze coat in ivory crepe that tied with bows down its front to the tiers of ecru lace trimmed with feathers, the clothes had the spirited dressiness that you see now in Valli's gals, for instance. They weren't saccharine, either—that dark side lurked in the black gazar sheath that underpinned a sheer dress trimmed in huge organza flowers or a baby doll in ruffled tiers of powder pink.
And look closely and it was plain to see that Chiuri and Piccioli had done their research on classic couture shapes, however abbreviated they might be here. But that will be scant consolation to mournful clients of the ancien régime.