On the Runway: Fall 2011 Couture

The couture shows are a tribute to pure fashion, featuring exquisitely hand-crafted looks. We've rounded up the top looks in Paris, from Dita von Teese's striptease at Gaultier to the floral dresses at Dior.

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Couture week in Paris is a semi-annual nod to the pure joy of fashion: Hand-crafted clothing, spectacular detail, and overall excess. Here, the Armani Prive show focuses on warm tones and lots of sparkle. For more on couture week, read our primer on why haute couture still matters.
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It was all about sparkle at the Giorgio Armani Prive show, especially with the luxurious runway that glowed with hints of warm oranges and and reds.
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Sequins and all things sparkly ruled the Prive runway.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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New Bond girl Gemma Arterton, actor Hugh Dancy and wife Claire Danes attend the Giorgio Armani Prive show in Paris.
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Daywear -- which included skirts and lightweight coats -- was embellished with wooden designs that gathered at the waist.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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The Armani Prive runway was also graced with evening gowns, in all their satin and silk glory.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Georgio Armani Prive haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Too bad Lady Gaga wasn't playing at the On Aura Tout Vu haute couture show, because pretty much every piece screamed Gaga goodness. In fact, the singer has reportedly acquired some of their new pieces and is featured on their website.
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The spectacle, titled "Fishing for Compliments," unfolded at the Palais Royal gardens and drew inspiration from underwater fun.
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Larger than life fish scales, reefs and mermaid silhouettes made big splashes on the runway, which had a hint of aqua lighting.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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On Aura Tout Vu haute couture, Fall 2011.
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It was like a dream at the Franck Sorbier haute couture show, complete with papier mache, wine corks, and pretty, bubblegum pink. (The dark, smokey setting helped too).
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Black balloons completed the dream-like party setting at the Sorbier show, held at a hall owned by auction powerhouse Sotheby's.
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A model has some fun at the Sorbier fashion show. Who wouldn't? Especially with this corsette inspired by everyone's favorite crisps, chocolates and cough drops.
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Franck Sorbier, haute couture Fall 2011.
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Franck Sorbier, haute couture Fall 2011.
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Franck Sorbier, haute couture Fall 2011.
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Franck Sorbier, haute couture Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland's haute couture show was all about high waves and liquid goodness. Reef-like gowns and shades of deep slate were strong sea elements on the Paris runway.
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Rolland, whose resume includes Balenciaga and a decade working for Jean-Louis Scherrer , joined the exclusive haute couture circle just over a year ago.
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Rolland's love for the south of France was presented on the runway, in gorgeous deep blues and rhinestone detailing.
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A pearl from the sea, in cape form. Rolland's use of rhinestones on stockings made the runway sparkle.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Stephane Rolland haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab's haute couture collection was staged on a stunningly reflective runway, which gave each dress the illusion of floating on a silvery mirrored lake -- a truly breathtaking effect.
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Each of Saab's couture gowns was more breathtaking than the next -- all incredibly feminine, flattering, and with gossamer-like layers that gave the whole collection an ethereal effect.
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A series of neutral-tone gowns gave way to pale greens and later, flashing reds. Overall, it's understandable why Saab's couture gowns have become a go-to for starlets on the red carpet. In fact, we'd put money down that one of these will show up at on a red carpet come 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Elie Saab haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Dita von Teese made a surprise appearance on the runway of Jean Paul Gaultier's haute couture show, cutting a strong silhouette in a long black dress, though as most people know, Dita never stays dressed for long.
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Ms. von Teese stripped down to a spectacular skeletal-looking black corset and thong, before parading down the runway on the arm of Gaultier himself.
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Gaultier's couture show overall had a distinctly film noir vibe, all belted waists, body-hugging silhouettes that cut off at the knee, and flapper-ish headgear.
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Some of the models at Gaultier's haute couture show even carried long cigarette holders, and struck the attitude of jet-set girls who'd seen it all.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, Fall 2011.
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A figure in white with a dramatic headdress and a white violin opened the festivities at the Gaultier haute couture show.
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The Valentino haute couture show was a vision rendered solely in black and white, with surprisingly few long gowns. Instead, the house focused on short, '60s-inspired dresses with lots of rose and lace motifs.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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American and Italian Editors in Chief Anna Wintour and Franca Sozzani brought their best Vogue faces to the Valentino haute couture show in Paris, France.
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Actress Claire Danes brought along husband Hugh Dancy to the Valentino haute couture show.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Valentino haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy's couture show was one of the most sought-after tickets in town, since the house had decided to scale down from a runway show to a small presentation. Fortunately, editor Jim Shi was able to post images of the dazzling looks -- including this nude, feathery creation -- on Twitter.
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Givenchy's collection overall was a stunning, ethereal parade of perfectly tailored dresses and separates.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Givenchy haute couture, Fall 2011.
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The Christian Lacroix haute couture show typically kicks off the festivities, and is also always a rousing crowd-pleaser.
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John Galliano's couture collection for Christian Dior is always one of the week's biggest highlights. This year, the designer took as inspiration the "Tulip line" that Dior created in 1953. Needless to say, floral pieces were in abundance.
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Some of the models wore what appeared to be translucent colored cellophane wrapped as striking headpieces. The overall effect was as avant-garde as it was stunning.
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The show, as usual, was a tribute to color, design, and excess, leading even famed fashion writer Suzy Menkes to remark, "If ever a collection were made to savor, to rerun each night on an iPad, perchance to dream, this Dior show was it."
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Christian Dior haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Designer John Galliano closes the Christian Dior haute couture show.
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Chanel's haute couture show took place in the light-filled Grand Palais, where the most prominent fixture on the runway wasn't the fashion, but rather a massive gilded lion at the center of the circular catwalk.
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The show itself had several key themes, in addition to the brand's signature crisp, feminine tailoring. The first trend, as evidenced by this gilded look, reflected the color of the lion -- warm metallics.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Another section of dresses featured exquisite tapestry patterns that looked like a cross between renaissance French design and an upscale Shanghai-inspired glamour. Oh, and note the matching cowboy-like boots!
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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A regal red silk dress on the Chanel haute couture runway.
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As ever, Chanel's iconic knits made an appearance in a series of perfect separates, dresses, and coats.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Lastly, florals were a reigning theme in Chanel's couture collection -- a lovely bit of spring in an otherwise fall collection.
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Actress Blake Lively was all smiles at the Chanel haute couture show.
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Jessica Alba also attended the star-studded event.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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Chanel haute couture, Fall 2011.
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A lion-headed groom walks the "bride" of the show down the runway for the grand finale at the Chanel haute couture show for fall 2011.
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