the most over the top moments from couture history

Paris is burning from the haute haute heat of couture week and to celebrate, we’re taking a look back at the five most over the top moments from couture history. From Yves Saint Laurent’s revolutionary Russian ballerinas to Mugler’s nineties mega...

by Emily Manning and i-D Staff
06 July 2015, 2:30pm

YSL's 1976 Ballets Russes: Yves Saint Laurent was undoubtedly the OG badass of couture. Taking over the house of Christian Dior from Monsieur himself at the ripe age of 21, Yves shook up the stodgy institution of couture by breaking out of its ultra-exclusive mold. First injecting the salon with a shot of the counterculture in 1957, Yves' diverse and dynamic couture collections would later prove him an expert of appropriation, elevating African breastplates and the souks of Marrakech to the realm of high fashion. Inspired by Léon Bakst's early-20th-century costumes for the Ballets Russes, His 1976 "Russian Collection" is one of the most famous individual collections in fashion history. A celebration of ornamentation, opulence, color, culture, and movement, this collection proved that elegant excess comes in many exotic flavors.

Foret de Karl at Chanel 2013: Although Chanel's couture collections aren't themselves the most outlandish, the house's sets are always as jaw-dropping as they come. You needn't travel back in time further than Printemps-Ete 13, where Karl Lagerfeld literally created a forest, to catch our drift. The Kaiser's collection sought to evoke airs of eighteenth century German Romanticism, and did so in perhaps the most visceral way possible: shipping an entire woodland wonderland into the Grand Palais. Tree by tree.

Thierry Mugler's 1997/98 Mutant Moment: The French renegade's penchant for exaggerated shoulders and extreme cinched waists came to define 80s fashion as a hypersexual power play. Whether inspired by butterflies or bionics, Mugler's women were best brought to life on his increasingly imaginative runways, his theatricality paving the way for fellow couture giants John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. Stating in 1994, "I don't believe in natural fashion. Let's go for it! The corset. The push-up bra. Everything! If we do it, let's do the whole number." Mugler's Automne-Hiver 97 couture collection kept that promise. Emerging from an ominous field of indigo smoke, the collection's final "Chimera Gown" looks as if Mugler smashed every Godzilla creature together and sent it through the chicest car wash in the universe. Some people are ahead of their time; Mugler is ahead of his species.

Malice in Wonderland for Christian Dior 2006/07: If Yves Saint Laurent's subversive spirit rocketed Dior through the turbulent twentieth century, John Galliano shot it into the new millennium. Following his stint at Givenchy in 1995--an appointment that made him the first British designer to head a French haute couture house in history--the Gibraltar-born button-pusher took his irreverent breed of larger-than-life theatricality to the house that Dior built. Galliano's Automne-Hiver 06 collection is all things malice in wonderland, a garden party with the volume cranked to 13. Colliding Renaissance with punk rock against a lush but menacing botanical backdrop, Galliano's girl looks as if she couldn't decide between going as Joan of Arc, the Queen of Hearts, or Siouxsie Sioux for Halloween.

Alexander McQueen's first Givenchy collection, spring/summer 97:  "Give me time," said Alexander McQueen, "and I'll give you a revolution." It seems the visionary didn't need too much of it to make his indelible mark in the world of couture. Although the designer famously referred to his first ever collection for the house of Givenchy, spring/ summer 97, as 'crap' (perhaps he believed it, perhaps just fueling the fires of controversy that would ultimately terminate his contract with the French house after five years), one thing's for sure: it dramatically changed Givenchy's direction. Taking the reigns from Galliano, the then 27-year-old McQueen injected his dark, twisted fantasy into the house's penchant for opulence, creating some of the most major moments in Givenchy history. For his freshman effort, McQueen outfitted Naomi Campbell in a gold-gilded ram horn situation, and sent out some full-on cherub looks. 


Text Emily Manning
Image via YouTube

Alexander McQueen
Christian Dior
Yves Saint Laurent
John Galliano
haute couture
Thierry Mugler
couture week