If there’s one which thing ’60s, ’70s and ’80s fashion stood for in France—and symbolized all over the globe—it was the glamorization of sexual liberation. Thanks to Yves Saint Laurent, and to Helmut Newton’s erotic projections via his work in French Vogue, women were emboldened to claim their sexual power over men through the epitome of sophisticated dressing. The book of masculine-feminine style, tailoring, chiffon, flashed legs in black stockings was written then. Anthony Vaccarello is in charge of carrying that flame now—and you cannot fault him for being true to himself in his new role as creative director at Saint Laurent. Vaccarello does short, short, short, and tailoring. Always has. Check back to Nicole Phelps’s review of his first show as an indie designer on March 1, 2011, and there he is, saying: “It’s always black, always sexy.”
So, anyway: There was plenty of black tonight, not least in the form of the shallow black temporary infinity pool along which the leggy legion of Saint Laurent women stomped in their variously spangly, Western-influenced Le Smoking tuxedos, rich velvet band-boy jackets, corset-waisted pants, tiny dresses, and of course, shorts: shorts in black or gold leather, shorts in the fab form of sequined playsuits with exaggerated glam shoulders. At one end of the vista was the Eiffel Tower; at the other, reflected in the pool, a line of fake white palm trees. And beyond that, on the public side of the Trocadéro plaza, a crowd of hundreds of young Parisians, dangling their legs as they sat on a wall to spectate at this national brand’s extravaganza for free.
Happenstance had it that the climate of sexual politics was taking a triumphal turn at exactly the moment that Vaccarello was finale-ing with his alternated cutaway asymmetric bodysuits and sheer black chiffon dresses. Frenchwomen today were celebrating the news that, under a new law, a man had been fined and given a three-month sentence for slapping a 21-year old woman on the buttocks on a bus near Paris. (In France, women have been speaking out about the condoned culture of casual sexual harassment all summer.) Meanwhile, their American sisters up in the Saint Laurent stands were barely containing whoops as they read on their phones of the sentencing of the sexual predator Bill Cosby.
Extraordinarily, #MeToo took two long-awaited judicial strides forward tonight. What does that have to do with Vaccarello’s spectacular collection tonight? Maybe that women might be able to feel damn right dressing exactly how they wish without fear at all times, inclusive of Saint Laurent micro-shorts or bodysuits should they so desire. Just as it always should have been, but, disgustingly, never really was.
It’s sobering to think that Cosby was criminally active at exactly the time that Yves Saint Laurent was making groundbreaking collections which celebrated female sexual power. Any which way you think of it, women’s freedom to dress as we please has finally won a couple of starter victories. It’s that thing: whether you’d actually want to dress the way Vaccarello sees women or not, you have to defend the right of those who do.