Couture Fashion Week is all about extremes: breathtakingly beautiful gowns commingled with grandiose, sense-defying haute messes. And with our jaws permanently locked in the dropped position, it can be hard to absorb anything beyond face value. But as with any piece of art — be it in a museum or on a catwalk — the designers do have something to tell us, embedded though it may be in an explosion of tulle and lace.
Obviously, the best thing to come away with from this show would be a closet full of graceful suits, gorgeous coats, and sleek dresses — all very Cate Blanchett Does Tea With the Queen. But assuming none of us can afford to swaddle ourselves wholly in Armani, there is an easy echo: The designer punctuated many of his looks with statement brooches (or in some cases, funky large buttons). We're thrilled to see the brooch make a comeback; it's an easy way to add zest to an outfit, and to draw the viewer's eye anywhere you want him or her to look. Well, almost anywhere. We don't recommend sticking the pin directly into your cleavage.
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Valentino: The Collar
Some days, however, we ladies don't feel like whipping out the goods; those of us who are bored with plunging necklines can write the Valentino team a thank-you note for a return to high-necked chicness that somehow still makes modesty look saucy. Our takeaway: Work those usually untouched top buttons on your blouses. Bonus: If you're still suffering from Twilight-induced mania, a high neck is the perfect way to cover up a multitude of bites.
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Chanel: The Bracelet
Nearly every single look Karl Lagerfeld presented included fabulous chunky bracelets — at least one on each arm, maybe more. The bad news is that 99 percent of people probably can't afford Kaiser-approved baubles. The good news is you can buy boatloads of similarly shiny pieces at Forever 21 and approximate that part of his vision for a fraction of the price. Especially if you only frequent places with dim lighting.
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Jean Paul Gaultier: The Stockings
We'd forgotten about the power of the fishnet stocking until Gaultier sent them down the runway. Picking up a pair and wearing them with … well, everything … is the perfect way to put some Dita Von Teese–style verve into your life without having to strip naked and swim in a giant martini glass (although that's fine too).
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Dior: The Color
Dior's brilliant use of bold color is probably one of the most straightforward ideas to approximate in your own wardrobe — if only because everyone from Old Navy to Barneys stocks sweaters, tanks, and tees in multiple hues. The key here is to forget about neutrals altogether: Just find the brightest items you can and wear them all at the same time. If you look in the mirror and feel like you resemble a package of Starburst and/or Blair Waldorf in a good mood, you're done.
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Valentino: The Bow
Some of the blouses and dresses in the Valentino show — sprinkled with tiny, neat bows — reminded us of our days playing with My Little Ponies on the floor, doing up their tails for some kind of equine prom. (That's a compliment: Those were awesome parties.) It's obvious Valentino believes the bow is back, from wee ones to midsize centerpieces to those giant ones affixed to dainty fingertip gloves, exactly what we imagine Minnie Mouse would wear if she were crossed with Paris Hilton. Although we do suggest moderation in both size and number — best to avoid evoking an actual bedecked My Little Pony, or Sarah Ferguson circa 1988 — as you do your fall shopping. They don't need to be twee; they can just be.
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Jean Paul Gaultier: The Pasties
Too hot to cook? Thank God the good folks at Gaultier have come up with something new and interesting to do with all your unused potholders: Paste them to your boobs. If anyone raises a quizzical brow at your DIY top, simply sniff, "In Paris they understand."
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Maison Martin Margiela: The Bag ... Pants
Why cram your cell phone, lip gloss, wallet, and backup panties into one handbag when you can wear ten at once? Unfortunately, short of covering yourself in glue and then streaking your local Nordstrom, you may have to make this happen at home with your Goodwill pile, a hardy pair of scissors, and a staple gun. Oh, and the cloak of your own virtuous altruism. Because remember, recycling is so hot right now. Really, you're not ripping off couture; you're saving the planet.
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Valentino: The Bird Cage
You've been wondering what to do with that giant empty birdcage ever since Tweety shuffled off this mortal coil. Duh, wear it. We have no idea how you're going to be able to eat, drive, or sit down in this little number, but if you've got the stones to wear a giant cage out of the house, surely you've got the wherewithal to figure out the details.
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Chanel: The Lion Head
Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, but this fall it's clearly in vogue to wear your love of animals somewhere a bit more prominent. The best part: cranial taxidermy, i.e. the art of stuffing a beast with one's own head, is so easy and simple to do at home. Just hollow out the carcass of your old Simba cuddly toy, plop it onto your face, and voila! It's better than all the hair product or zit concealer combined, albeit slightly more suffocating. Still, imagine how thin you'll look without all that bloaty oxygen in your body. After all, fashion is suffering, right?