The J. Mendel
signature has been, for some time, fluttering trains of balletic mousseline, so it was something of a surprise to see Gilles Mendel turning his attentions to a silhouette he called "very tight." The old plisséd skirts were still in evidence on his most dramatic gowns, but for much of the collection, he hewed much closer to the body, mimicking its own architecture with details that, he said, "brought the construction out." Seams were bound in faille on siren-tight bustier dresses (and inset with python strips because, well, why not?), as they were on a micro raffia jacket, giving it a semi-futuristic spin. Cord details crisscrossed gown bodices, apparently in homage to the textile artist Sheila Hicks; Mendel hinted that future collections would head in this direction, too. On the gowns with softness to spare it worked, though on other pieces it undercut some of the romance the house has courted so successfully in seasons past. Still, those missing the old can take heart. Opening a side door of his showroom, Mendel led the way to one room of a multi-part atelier, where seamstresses were busy draping a long yellow gown for a Middle Eastern princess, part of his growing side business in couture. Ask and you shall receive.