Couture Fall 2011: Our Top Picks

The Fall 2011 haute couture season made us realize two things: We miss the mastery of Christian Lacroix and John Galliano, and couture is here to stay. Personal issues aside (Galliano), the clothes were always so wonderful. That's not to say the season was disappointing—far from it. We're just wistful for yesteryear.

This season proved that couture is very much needed, if only for the sheer creativity on display. Without further ado, we present our top looks from Paris.

Photos: Imaxtree

Jean Paul Gaultier's collection was everything one hopes a couture show to be: exquisite, lush, inventive, and entertaining. The clothes pulled from his archives— conical bras, trenches reimagined as gowns, even Gaultier's classic gender-bending looks. The designer also reached into his model archives, sending out Erin O'Connor and Eve Salvail, she of the shaved and tattooed head. (Model fans from the '90s will know who we're talking about.)

But back to the clothes! From feather-lined skirts (and heads of models) to belted and draped coat-dresses and a hooded cape, the looks were, in a word, perfect. His shoes were a high point: reverse heeled ballerinas (complete with ribbons). This gravity-defying—though surprisingly wearable—shoe comes down the runway every few years much to our delight. Let's hope we see it at ready to wear.

Photos: Imaxtree

Karl Lagerfeld once again presented a collection full of references (the '20s! Poiret!), silhouettes (lampshade! Sexy and tailored!) and a slew of fabrications. But what set this show apart from his RTW or resort offerings was the sheer detailing of his pieces. The evening gowns—with the intricate bead- and sequin- work (not to mention ostrich feathers) were the real standouts. And if the collections are anything to go by, the feather trend is here to stay. So better stock up!

giambatista valli
Photos: Imaxtree

This was Valli's first couture outing, and if there were any naysayers out there prior to his presentation, he seemed to have silenced them. His evening-gown heavy collection (perfect for his red carpet fans) was filled with organza, lace, flowers, and gold accents (leaf belts and giant rock necklaces) that brought to mind goddesses. The collection ranged from simple cotton skirts and shirt dresses to ostrich feathers (see? Stock up!). Valli's gowns were made for couture, and vice versa.

Photos: Imaxtree

Oh, to be a Russian princess of yore, with gowns of gold… .Thankfully, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli have that sorted with this Valentino couture collection. The color palette was simple (if rich golds and deep velvety blacks are your idea of simple). The frock coats came in embroidered metallic or embellished black, at times paired over a lace skirt. The silhouettes for the most part were long and lean, and the gowns were an example of layering mastery (lace over chiffon). Set off with gold crown headbands, the look evoked an elegance that was perfectly Valentino.

Photos courtesy of Givenchy
5. Givenchy

If any designer's true calling was couture, it would be Riccardo Tisci. Sure his ready to wear has become the favorite of fashionistas, but it's in this season that we get to see Tisci's vision spring to life. Showing just 10 looks, a dazzling array of white gowns (and one gold one ) with sheer skirts, beaded tops, and hand-curled feathers, the collection was simply stunning. With such an attention to detail—each bead is hand sewn—we can perhaps finally put an end to those pesky questions as to the season's relevance. With clothes like this, it's more important than ever.