Fashion 88 : Fall Menswear Shows in Paris Redefine Meaning of ‘Normal’

American menswear retailers, who often ask “who would wear that? " during French menswear shows, were saying the clothes looked “almost normal” during the recent fall/winter 1988-89 showings.

If monkey-fur trim on a black leather motorcycle jacket or sequined stirrup pants or ski knickers worn with a smoking jacket or a classic suit in cardinal-red gabardine with a cranberry-color shirt can be defined as “normal,” then the French attitude of “Why not?” has become contagious.

Along with these outlandish ideas, designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Claude Montana, Marithe and Francois Girbaud and Nino Cerruti did offer items the avant-garde menswear customer will probably want as soon as they hit the stores.


Among the probable “must-haves” for next winter: belted alpaca overcoats, the fabric as thick and lush as a beloved teddy bear’s. Gaultier’s, in cocoa brown, just cleared the knees, while Cerruti’s slate-gray version drifted to low calf.

The coats were part of the new, easier silhouette that also showed up in jackets and pants.

For classicists, the winter jacket shape is rounded through the shoulders, slightly boxy and always with three buttons; for the more adventuresome, a parade of buttons, often as many as 12, march side by side up the front of high-lapel jackets that have an Edwardian look about them.

The other new-looking sports jacket--and every collection had a version--is the belted style a la Erich von Stroheim.

Make the jacket reversible, add some embroidery around the pocket flaps or on the lapels, or double the shawl collar, and you have some more Parisian inspirations.

Pants were either loose and large or leg-hugging knit leggings. Oversize versions were often pulled high on the waist via double belts, the best in this look coming from Claude Montana. He received a standing ovation for his show.

Montana has perhaps the best color sense of any current designer, and his all-red groups had everyone raving after the show.

More color from Gaultier, who sent out Fragonard yellow Harris tweed sports jackets on color-coordinated gabardine stirrup pants, everything wrapped up in a matching fringed wool scarf. Both designers also had rich darks with mahogany and bitter chocolates mixed with plum, eggplant, grape, burgundy and forest.

The Girbauds used this darker palette for color-blocked knits and reversible hooded blousons, the hoods framed in wolf fur.

Even with sportier pieces, such as blousons or parkas, the look was dressier than in seasons past,

through the use of dressed-up accessories, such as laced suede oxfords or side-buckled slip-ons, instead of clunky hiking shoes.

Other good-looking accessories were the knit watch caps at Gaultier, Cerruti’s French berets or newsboy caps and the silk scarfs that all but replaced ties, especially when shown with knit shirts.

For evening, watch for the return of the “Phantom of the Opera” cape, covering everything from those knickers at Cerruti to more conventional looks at Montana, where the unconventional touch was to do the total look in black.