It was a collection that read like an emotional homecoming: Christian Lacroix going back to Provence, the place where he started in the 1980's. The difference is that what he's doing now with all the poufs, the florals, the corsetry, and matador jackets looks much better than it did when Ivana Trump was his chief patroness. It's just as head-spinningly decorative, just as frilled and flounced and passionate about vermillion and orange, hearts and flowers, but it has become infinitely lighter and better connected to the general flow of fashion.
Lacroix hasn't veered from his Arles-meets-the-eighteenth-century reference point. Nor has he lost his obsession for making every outfit a mismatch of color, fabric, and texture. It's that the shapes he's usingthe peplum jackets, with under-frills of lace; the toreador boleros, done in sheerest, gold-embroidered organza; the balloon-sleeve, high-neck poet blouses; and the scallop-edged table-linen dressesnow relate to trends that are emerging elsewhere, at influential houses like Balenciaga and Prada, for example. Lacroix's personal journey, it seems, has wound back, through poetic coincidence and dogged artistic integrity, to become newly accessible. Now that the difficult stiffness and eccentricities have finally dissolved from his collection, smart young Oscar-bound actresses ought to be running into his arms crying, "Dress me!"