PARIS • Forget lapel pins, white roses or black.
On Sunday night at Paris Fashion Week, American designer Thom Browne made an utterly convincing statement about female strength and sexuality.
It began in a vast ballroom of the Hotel de Ville, Paris' city hall, with a central island filled with canvases propped up on easels.
Out came a procession of painters - imaginary doppelgangers of Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun, Marie Antoinette's favourite portrait painter and a woman who made her way in a man's world - in beige jackets and grey bloomers, the legs exaggerated to hoop-skirt size, their hair jutting back in towering cones.
As they began to daub, their visions appeared: women drawn in multiple shades of grey and an eye-boggling amount of detail; women whose bodies were both art and artifice, a wink and a smile, inscribed in strips of tweed and astrakhan, threads sketching the form beneath.
Their corsets were visible under sheer scrims of chiffon set into flannel jackets, marbleised sequins monumentalising flesh.
At the end, each model stood haloed in a square of neon light and to Baha Men's Who Let The Dogs Out, four men in (yes) dog masks, grey flannel suits and high heels appeared, leashed together and led by a figure in a long, grey rose-covered robe.
After circling the room, they arrived at a throne of sorts and the attendants removed the robe, revealing South Sudanese model Grace Bol in her own grey flannel pantsuit.
She took the throne, the music changed to Carly Simon's Let The River Run, the anthem at the end of the 1988 film Working Girl.