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Swan Lake
By Timothy Hagy, Paris Editor

PARIS, July 7, 2005 - As the sun began to set behind the Eiffel Tower Wednesday evening, a stellar crowd filled the Palais de Chaillot for the Valentino couture show. Princess Clotilde de Savoie sat along side Sheryl Crow, Princesse Rosario of Bulgaria and Madame Chirac, while across the aisle Gwyneth Paltrow sent paparazzi into a flashing frenzy.

With persistent rumors that this was to be Valentino’s last couture show, the announcement of his retirement imminent, Clothilde de Savoie mused before the show “I’ve worn Valentino since the beginning of my career, and I still have the chance to get more couture.” The princess was a French actress before marrying the heir to the Italian throne-in-exile.

What soon passed down the runway was signature Valentino, be that in day suits trimmed with mink or dripping with mossy clusters of jet beads. Shoes were frothed with peacock feathers. White chiffon was draped and dusted with sprays of silver. A crocodile bustier came dripped with amber crystal.

But the evening wear glittered as if it had been designed with the red carpet in mind. Lace was frosted like a wedding cake, while diaphanous gowns floated along the catwalk. Each piece was exquisitely polished, and this season the toga-gown gave way to a more linear silhouette, defined by pencil skirts, or flared hemlines and trains.

When Sir Val made a cameo appearance after the finale, he seemed to be waving goodbye, a fact also alluded to in the soundtrack full of every siren song ever composed.

Gwyneth Paltrow, who was dressed in an simple jacket with jeans, remarked, “I loved it.” She then turned to Anna Wintour, Editor-In -Chief of Vogue USA who was seated to her right. “See you tomorrow,” she remarked.

As guests filtered back out the door all that was left was the gathering Paris dusk.

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