The buzz in Paris was about Valentino putting bodies on the runway that went up to a size 10. Now, hopefully no one is pretending they’re the first; folks like Christian Siriano have been putting bodies of all shapes on his runways regularly, for a while. But it is rare for couture. I’ll let Vogue tell it:

You could see the emotion in the eyes of some of Valentino’s models as they glided through the maison’s Place Vendôme salons to a specially recorded soundtrack by Anohni. “She was told she’d never walk couture,” Pierpaolo Piccioli said of one of them during a preview the day before. “In couture you never see these bodies. Never.” It is in large part thanks to Piccioli that haute couture is finding relevance in an age set on breaking the constructs of the past. On his mission to make this elitist corner of fashion matter to the generations dubbed “woke,” he has decided to “keep the codes, but change the values”: to give the broad spectrum of humanity the chance to mirror themselves in haute couture, in place of the waify, white, classical beauty ideal of its past.

“When you do couture, you have the house model. And you apply the body of the house model to 50 or 60 models on the runway. I wanted to break these rules and embrace the idea of different proportions of body, different sizes, different ages. But it was impossible to do this with just one house model. So, I broke the rules and got 10 house models in with differently proportioned bodies,” he explained. The idea of haute couture was always to adapt silhouettes to the client’s body. But those silhouettes are typically dreamt up, fitted and realized on a tall, slim and young physique. This season, Piccioli changed that model, in more than one way. And in the process, he said, “We got to create new silhouettes.”

Honestly… I looked at this show and might not have noticed much was different, had I not heard the fanfare. Nor did I think any of the “new” silhouettes felt very fresh. There are some nice pieces, per usual, but overall this whole thing felt less lavish and less imaginative to me — I was not that impressed. In many cases, the models who appear closer to the “10” part of the scale got dowdy cuts, and the models on the “0” end were wearing all the slinky stuff. Fashion is so fucked up; I’m sure this felt like an absolutely big deal inside that insular bubble, but to the rest of us, it may come off as the baby-est of baby steps. The spectrum between “0” and “10” still represents a tiny slice of what the rest of us know as a diverse reality. I understand, though, that even a size 2 is a unicorn on a couture runway — much less a 4, a 6, and so forth — so the intent is there, and to the models themselves, it was probably momentous, even if to us it feels like self-congratulatory back-patting. I saw video of Piccioli being hugged by so many people over this, and it had a real air of “You’re so brave” to it that turned me off. I edited this to note that someone in the comments expressed it really well when she said that she’s torn between being happy about anyone caring to try, and annoyed at what a “tepid effort” it was, and I feel that deeply.

The test will be if this happens more than just this one season. And then, whether it catches on, and whether fashion stops acting like a size 10 and up can’t rock a silhouette that a size 0 does.

[Photos: Imaxtree]