James Gillray and the Queen Mum. You had to be a bit of a British art-history nerd to get the references John Galliano was dispensing backstage to mostly blank looks from fashion correspondents. But thank goodness for Stephen Jones' erudition on historical headgear—and Google backup—because here we are at the source: outrageous Regency cartoons of silly fashions from the Napoleonic war era, giant plumed military helmets, overblown mob-caps, and indecently transparent dresses. Sorted. (Oh, apart from the Queen Mummery, which equals the sweet pea florals, of course.)
But did one actually need to know this to understand the collection? Hardly, because as accomplished as the backstage history boys may be, this was a show of tried-and-trusted Galliano classics put out at a moment when he's essentially brought his runway antics to a stop. What's walking out now are simplified, understandable pieces: parka-derived daywear with vestiges of military frogging in tape; little drapey jersey dresses; fragile rosette-sleeved cardigans; tiny, flippy ruffled floral skirts.
In one way, that challenges the idea that a fashion show has to be newsy to be worthwhile—though it's a harder case to make when a resentful, exhausted audience is expected to travel an hour on a cold Saturday night to an insalubrious quarter of Paris to view it. To justify this, Galliano needed to pull something special out of his hat. He did, eventually, in an evening section in which his fragile, sheer, spangled, romantically tinted and flower-printed dresses briefly settled onlookers into a serene state of appreciation. If there are parties to go to next season, these are the kinds of dresses many girls might dream of wearing to them. With an underslip, of course.