NEW YORK -- Padded white walls, headless plaster bodies hanging from the ceiling and models doling out meds (actually white M&Ms). Had it finally come to this, had we all landed in the fashion insane asylum? One never knows the intention with designer Thom Browne, who presented his spring 2014 collection at a very creatively outfitted Chelsea art space Monday afternoon during New York Fashion Week.

The look: "Cuckoo's Nest" couture? Not exactly. More like feminine-to-the-hilt, with models in surreal, smeared red lipstick, graying wigs and pearl-embellished hair nets.

The inspiration: It's never literal with Browne, more like emotional. And this collection of mostly white hobble dresses and corseted jackets with high collars got the mind racing all right. The female form was the canvas for Browne's near-surgical molding, folding, slicing, dicing, bone-corseting and surface embellishment.

A metaphor for the female experience? Surely. One look made the model resemble a honeycomb tissue paper party decoration, another a briny sea creature with three-dimensional quills shooting out of her neck, another a nurse in Latex melded with lace. And finally, there was a look that made the model resemble a mental patient in a pleated crepe straitjacket with sewn sleeves like clipped wings.

The verdict: American couture. The finest workmanship you'll see coming out of New York, all of it done at Browne's studio. "We were still sewing pearls on right up until the models walked out," the designer said afterward, referring to the tiny seed pearls that could be seen on fabric ends, in between pleats and a whole host of other places.

It was over-the-top, sure, but you can bet when these ideas trickle down to retail, there will be something even First Lady Michelle Obama can wear.

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