On the Runway: Spring 2011 Couture

Paris' semi-annual Couture Week is a celebration of the very finest in luxury fashion design. Here, the highlights from Dior, Chanel, Armani Prive, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and more.

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Paris' semi-annual Couture Week is an over-the-top celebration of the very finest in luxury fashion design, a chance for designers to indulge their most impractical whimsies--no matter how expensive or un-sellable--and for fans to revel in the glittery spectacle of their unfettered imaginations.
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At Christian Dior, John Gailliano explored the brand's pivotal "New Look," a sculpted skirt and jacket silhouette, by adding heaps of tulle and reflective fabrics.
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Each skirt was bigger than the next at Christian Dior, but a faded nude ombre silk gave this flouncy dress a distinctly modern appeal.
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Smart pencil skirts and matching jackets broke up the parade of tulle at Christian Dior.
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Christian Dior Couture, Spring 2011.
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Christian Dior Couture, Spring 2011.
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Christian Dior Couture, Spring 2011.
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Christian Dior Couture, Spring 2011.
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Christian Dior Couture, Spring 2011.
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Christian Dior Couture, Spring 2011.
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Karl Lagerfield eschewed his recent infatuation with gobs of fur and jewels in favor of a more restrained spring couture collection.
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The brand's signature tweed suits were reincarnated with metallic lapels and hip, boxy silhouettes.
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Though fairly conservative compared to Chanel's ready-to-wear collections, a handful of sexy cocktail dresses floated down the runway.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Chanel Couture, Spring 2011.
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Giorgio Armani's futuristic Prive couture collection included paneled leather separates and some seriously pointy metallic chapeaus.
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Couture gives designers an opportunity to explore new design territory. Armani's collection was much more concept-driven than its ready-to-wear line, which tends to be more classically chic than experimental.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Armani Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab's couture presentation put the designer's love of painstaking detail, lavish embroidery and classically luxe fabrics like lace and tulle on proud display.
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Saab's signature frothy bridal gown featured hundreds of tiny silk rosettes.
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Though Saab's couture palette was mostly composed of watercolor pastels and earthy nudes, a few sultry black numbers in semi-sheer lace gave the collection a serious sex appeal.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011.
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Elie Saab Couture, Spring 2011
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Talk about "new" silhouettes! Stephane Rolland eschewed naturally body-conscious gowns in favor of exaggerated shoulders and super-structured forms.
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Prepare to unpack your shoulder pads: Rolland's strong shoulders made his evening looks commanding and powerful.
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Ladies anxious over making grand entrances might consider Rolland's tent-like bronze creation, which looks as though it could harbor entire familiies. Notice the width of the skirt actually occupies most of the runway.
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Feathers have been a trend all season long, but the couture looks from On Aura Tout Vu offered a more literal interpretation. This model looks as though she might actually take flight.
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Mixed prints and technicolor patterns at Franck Sorbier anchored the collection in a 1980's vision of the future.
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Even Sorbier's (comparatively) classic Grecian gowns were given a futuristic twist.
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Jean Paul Gaultier synthesized his favorite design references into a single dynamo collection that combined 19th century Moulin Rouge with '80s-era punk rock.
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Over-the-top head gear has been a recurring theme for Gaultier, and his theatrical feathery caps only heightened the sense of eccentricity.
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A few Spanish-style "Zorro" gowns rounded out Gaultier's gorgeous--if slightly eccentric--spring collection.
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True to form, Gaultier still found a way to include his signature Old Hollywood glam amid all the rock-n-roll on his runway.
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Jean Paul Gaultier Couture, Spring '11.
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Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring '11.
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Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier, Spring 2011.
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Can you Can-Can? This flouncy skirt is printed with long lady legs along the lining. Naturally, the model did a high-kick to give demonstrate its surreal effect.
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An unapologetically lacy presentation from Valentino called to mind a fashionable Little Bo Peep.
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Pale pink nudes and semi-sheer silks gave the collection a pure, innocent undertone.
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