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Expertise a Winner at Saint Laurent Show

July 13, 1995

PARIS (AP) _ There’s nothing like expertise and a sure hand in making true couture, and experience beamed like a beacon through the models of Yves Saint Laurent in his winter haute couture show.

On Wednesday _ the final day of this year’s haute couture shows _ this was not about frissons of excitement, but well-cut tailored and glamorous evening clothes, perfect in their own way.

``It was serene, peaceful,″ said Bettina Graziani, famed fashion watcher and Givenchy’s first top model of the 1950s. ``Some designers make you feel uneasy, even fearful; not Saint Laurent.″

There are packs of youthful pretenders swarming for the fashion crown, such as John Galliano, 35, who will take over Givenchy’s couture, the house announced Tuesday. But Saint Laurent is still way up there, along with Christian Lacroix.

The 59-year-old Saint Laurent’s easy-to-wear chic ran from the straight brown pants with a drawstring camel beige parka to satin dinner dresses and panniered ball gowns for evening.

Suits were sleek, with long fitted jackets, mostly in black and sober colors, jazzed up with a spitfire-red tweed model with holly green brocade blouse _ great for Christmas.

The demure little black crepe dress with low waist, the fitted white brocade suit with big triangular black velvet lapels, some of the plain velvet tunic outfits _ all had YSL’s superb touch and sure elegance. Shoulders are perfectly padded without exaggeration; skirt lengths are the favorite just-above-knee. Nobody’s experiments with anything else look much good in couture now.

Late-day? Saint Laurent’s got the mood for now with little black velvet and white lace bustier dresses, lacquered lace dresses with jet beading, flippy dance skirts.

To wow a crowd, try a superb slashed V front and back velvet sheath with its showy spray of iridescent rooster feathers.

Simple draped crepe or satin sheaths a la Saint Laurent go out to dinner in perfectly stark navy or gentle lavender. Big jewel and sparkling sequin motifs pep up evening capes, and doughnut shapes of taffeta surge up as arm ringlets for an off-shoulder or strapless gown.

Gala evenings shine in the terrific pyramid-skirted crinolined gowns or a majestic suit in black velvet with its fitted jacket, sparkly rhinestone buttons and enormous raised collar with a diamante heart at the back _ all lovely, all Saint Laurent.

At Balmain American couturier Oscar de la Renta is still hanging in there, with his three-year contract up in October. Who knows, after that?

For this season, he’s showing perfectly nice and suave clothes for elegant women such as U.S. Ambassador to France Pamela Harriman, who was in the audience.

Day wear was polite, a bit timid with all those neutrals, and a fine loden coat with windowpane tweed suit.

The flame-red satin princess dress with long sleeves or the colorful lame-shot cafan looks with pants for splendid evenings at home or on the town.

Want to go out like a work of modern art? Try Paco Rabanne. His outfits jingled in metallic glory as the designer worked his favorite shiny metal themes to advantage to make them into lace-like jeweled jackets, minis combined with stretch rubber. For the soda-fountain queen: daring little plastic tutus based on iridescent plastic goblets or forks with crowns of plastic straws on heads.

Even cement was used in an armored bustier for a royal blue number with an embroidered tulle skirt. But Rabanne wove some appealing metalwork into many of the more normal silk dresses, tunics and coats.

The glamour of Spain plus the Ritz Hotel’s runway over the swimming pool combined to give Michel Klein’s collection for Guy Laroche extra excitement, with fresh and original clothes.

``I based it all on Ava Gardner, her late-40s film `The Flying Dutchman,‴ Klein said.

The full dirndl skirts or dresses with tiny waists and hip padding may not have been quite slinky Ava, and the towering dyed beehive wigs were more psychedelic 60s than Pandora, the film character.

But there’s a lot of talent here. This 38-year-old is rising rapidly from his start four collections ago. For fun, he showed Naomi Campbell in a daring sequined hot pants jumpsuit with a light flowing cape.

More seriously, he ended up with some pretty ball gowns fit for the court of Spain and a wonderful simple white evening trouser suit _ the understated signature style he’s used for his own label for years.

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