Pillowcases as evening gowns, fist-sized heart-shaped earrings, fright-wigs and Ancien Regime white make-up and a bride in a satin gimp-mask. It could only be Vivienne Westwood, the only designer to still pull these cunning stunts on a Parisian catwalk and get away with it (just about). For S/S 2011, Dame Westwood followed her usual route - a snippet of proto-environmental propaganda on our chairs, a rag-bag of rag-monger cast-offs on the catwalk and the latest starting show of the season to date (it was a good ninety minutes before her lights dimmed to photographers' cat-calls).
That said, this didn't feel quite as wayward and haphazard as the usual Westwood romp. In amongst the crazy-lady clash of multicoloured checks, stripes and 'FRAGILE' tape rendered as triple loop-around belts, there were actually some wearable clothes. God knows what the reference points for Westwood and her team were this season, besides her own back catalogue, of course. Then again, her philosophy these days is 'buy less, buy well, wear again and again', so it makes sense for her recycle her own back-catalogue. These season, her team alighted on a fair few busty wench dresses from her late eighties collections, cut in brown and blue taffeta like Gainsborough heroines. Pucked suiting felt more recent, as did boxy tailoring, but both did good service on the catwalk without frightening the horses. Those odd silk fetish masks did that - but even they couldn't distract from the fact that they were strapped up over some serviceable summer suiting, with shorts and an unstructured blazer. T-shirt dresses splashed with gaudy prints were perhaps too unstructured, as were the evening dresses - signature ruches and bunched once again resembling nothing less than a bolt of fabric pulled out and precariously tacked into shape around the figure.
Throw in some tribal face paint, a few glittery jewel-crusted jackets and Dame Viv herself working the catwalk like a supermodel to a rousing ovation - which, one must confess, was only in part out of a sense of duty to her legacy - and there you have it. Your basic Vivienne Westwood Gold Label show these days. No thrills, no spills, no surprise.