When the fashion chat is all about the "new ladylike," it's not hard to give in to the methods of seduction Valentino has perfected. He's had "lady" down pat for yearsfor the genuine ones of the yacht-owning class, that is. His Spring collection covers the waterfront for that society, and those who aspire to it.
Valentino knows exactly how to translate this season's messages about lace and lingerie into infinitely fragile corseted dresses with gently falling frills. How to tie up a little rose chiffon dress with a lavender ribbon. How to decorate a summer suede jacket with a smattering of sequined bobbles, and fashion a suit out of the lightest, palest liquid satin. Get him on the subject of nautical, and he will show (on his friend Naomi Campbell, no less) how pristinely perfect something as simple as a pair of white sailor pants and a navy silk sweater can look.
There was also a theme of butterflies flitting through this collection in prints, on canvas day bags, belts, and hair ornaments, and set into the clasps of metal mesh evening purses. It all looked romantically pretty in the just-so mode that his clients adore. Yet the applause for this show was for the ultimately feminine evening pieces that appeared in his finale: an extraordinary turquoise draped jersey goddess dress, and a single, brilliant red chiffon ruffled gown, short in front and trailing out behind. It's the stuff of fantasy, certainly. But in Valentino's world, it's also the reality that will keep his many fans coming back for more.