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Dior, Versace and Valli command the runways at Paris couture shows

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Of his second haute couture collection for Christian Dior, Raf Simons said in the program notes, “I wanted it to literally be about the season; to be about the very idea of spring.” As snow fell outside the tent, models emerged from below the runway into a sumptuous secret garden scene.

Christophe Ena/AP

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Simons continued many of the themes he explored back in July, including the slim black pant and embroidered bustier. Meanwhile, the silk coat – with its bold shock of poppy red – possessed the silhouette and spirit of vintage Dior.

Christophe Ena/AP

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The absence of visible closures creates beautiful simplicity in the lines of a cropped vest atop a bustier – each embroidered differently for layered floral effect.

BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

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Indeed, Simons has an exceptional ability to simultaneously layer and streamline. The same vest shape reappears over a dress yet the segmentation of colour and minimal yellow embroidery add up to a fresh, new look.

BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

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Three layers of multicoloured embroidered tulle give this strapless evening dress dynamic dimension. – almost organic in form. A beauty note: All the models had lips that sparkled like Dorothy’s red slippers.

BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

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The series of gowns that closed the show seemed to have springtime weddings in mind. Here, the classic bodice and full skirt combination gets updated with embroidered and cuffed t-shirt sleeves. And for brides who cannot show their shoulders, a dress could not be more flawless than this.

Christophe Ena/AP

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Giambattista Valli is particularly comfortable working in black and white – it’s likely this allows him to emphasize his other study in contrasts: strategic, rounded volume and elegant elongation. This evening look – an open chiffon dress over silk cigarette pants – both in stylized alligator print – shows off the latter.

Zacharie Scheurer/AP

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Valli at his subtlest and most conservative remains motivated by detail. See the crocodile-stamped velvet panel that runs the length of this evening coat and the raw-edged macramé hem.

BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

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He also showed several dresses with volume that puffed from the front like this inverted tulip shape adorned in crystal embroidery. Perfect for ingénues walking the red carpet.

Zacharie Scheurer/AP

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The integrated cape remains a running theme in Valli’s collections – its intention to create a flowing frame around a contoured silhouette. The sculpted cluster of metal flowers around the neck and in the hair were created for the designer by Luigi Scialanga.

BENOIT TESSIER/REUTERS

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It was interesting to watch the show’s strong, high-contrast opening give way to a more precious, fairytale-focused second half. Yet they seemed to perfectly sum up his two clientele types: the heiresses versus the actresses.

Zacharie Scheurer/AP

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Donatella Versace looked to the architecture of glass domes for her third Atelier Versace collection. Lines – like the iron between windowpanes – were a key theme as was the way fabrics refracted and reflected light. The pantsuit with 24-karat gold pinstripe and gold embroidery that opened the show underscored that Donatella meant business.

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A couture collection simply allows Versace to introduce more exclusive fabrications. Mink fur the hue of highlighter yellow and embroidered bands of crystal, python and gold laminate alternate in vertical strips around a vest. Underneath, an even shorter, barely-there bustier dress.

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Donatella seems adamant to define couture according to the Versace vernacular: less frou, more flash. With this mini-dress, fluorescent yellow piping makes the gold leather appear backlit. The fur functions as textural trim.

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If the collection began geometrically, it ended with less structured, diaphanous dresses. If the earlier designs had the structure and tailoring befitting of cocktail parties and indoor soirées, the dresses in metal mesh appear suited for the outdoors where the warm spring air can move through them.

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