21 Couture Looks To Make You Cry – Or Laugh (Or Both)

As Paris Couture week comes to a close, we've trawled the archives for some of the most extreme - and extremely beautiful - looks ever to grace the couture catwalks. Prepare to be amazed...

Ah, couture…the apex of the fashion artisans’ art, the place where designers can let the muse take them and let their imaginations roam free, unfettered by the pesky constraints of wearability, or the need to sell handbags…

But also a place where you can see Conchita Wurst wearing an embroidered dirndl dress (we’re looking at you, Jean-Paul Gaultier), models unable to move under dresses that have taken up most of France’s entire yearly output of tulle, and not forgetting girls wearing golden Pharaoh beards reaching down to their chests. Hello, John Galliano!

So without further ado, we bring you the best ever couture looks – grouped into looks by our favourite extreme-couture designers for your easy viewing pleasure.

John Galliano for Dior
The greatest fashion showman of modern times needs no further introduction. Our Dior/John Galliano couture highlights include:

Spring/Summer 2004, below

Autumn/Winter 2010, below

Spring/Summer 2006, below

Spring/Summer 2003, below

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy

Before Lee McQueen founded his own label, let’s not forget that he was creative director at Givenchy. And what a practice run for the theatrics that went on to define his own house. Highlights from his Givenchy years include Autumn/winter 1997, below, with model Honor Fraser (and a real live falcon, obviously)

 Not to mention the great flying headpiece from Autumn/Winter 1998, below

Julien Macdonald for Givenchy

And let’s also not forget that after McQueen at Givenchy, there came a Welshman named Julien Macdonald. Before his career took off in a much more spangly direction, he produced several well-reviewed couture shows for the house – including Spring/Summer 2002, below

Autumn/Winter 2003, below

Jean-Paul Gaultier
The Breton-stripe wearing One cuts an exquisite jacket, but his career was founded on catwalk controversy. His shows brought us men wearing womens’ clothes, tattooed models, a whole gang of girls dressed up as famous fashion editors, and not to mention Beth Ditto modelling one of his finales. For his couture label, he likes to really cut loose. Exhibit A: Transexual Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst modelling Autumn/Winter 2014, below

Exhibit B: the dress with a metal cage train from Autumn/Winter 2008, below

Spring/Summer 2010, below

Spring/Summer 2013, below

Autumn/Winter 2015, below

Christian Lacroix
Absolutely Fabulous’ Edina was a mega-fan and so were we. How we miss the colourful beauty of Mr Lacroix’s designs on the Paris catwalks (he closed his label in 2009). Couture was always his playground and his fondness for putting Lily Cole in a show-stopping wedding dress for the finale never waned. Prime examples include:

Autumn/Winter 2007, below

Autumn/Winter 2004, below

A wedding-cake-inspired finale wedding gown from Spring/Summer 2008, below

Viktor & Rolf
The Dutch design duo whose clothes verge on the side of being wearable art (literally) found their metier on the couture catwalks where they’ve dressed Maggie Rizer as a Russian doll (yes, wearing every single look from the collection one on top of the other) and various other feats. Our favourites include Autumn/Winter 2015, below

Maison Margiela
When John Galliano made his comeback following his fall from grace at Dior, he did it with a collection for Maison Margiela shown during couture week Autumn/Winter 2015. We marvelled at the finale look below in particular as evidence of his return to form:

Karl Lagerfeld’s true sense of the spectacular is really reserved for his shows sets, while the clothes themselves are always savvily wearable. However, no couture round-up can be complete without some highlights from the Chanel couture ateliers – works of art the lot of them. We’d sell close family members to have a chance to try on any of the below:

Autumn/Winter 2012, below

Kendall Jenner’s wedding tux and train from Autumn/Winter 2015, below

Spring/Summer 2013, below

Get another Chanel fix with our round-up of the house’s best-ever catwalk moments here

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