Valentino Spring 2012 Couture Collection

Posted on January 31, 2012


Would you be able to tell, from looking at it, that over a thousand hours of labor went into the above dress? What exactly is haute couture supposed to look like? Pier Paolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri have worked hard to redefine the Valentino name once they took over the house, and for the most part, we’re very appreciative of their efforts, which have been fresh and modern, while still adhering to the house style generally. But we look at a collection like this and wonder whether we agree that this is what haute couture should look like. We’re not of the often-voiced opinion that haute couture must, by its nature, be extravagant and opulent and unrealistic. But we do think that the final garment must at least showcase the intense work and world class craftsmanship that was put into it. Otherwise, why pay the exorbitant sum for something that looks like expensive ready-to-wear? We think this collection is very pretty and it’s not for us to define what is and isn’t haute couture, but we do find ourselves just a little underwhelmed by it all.


[Photo Credit: – Video Credit: FataleFashionII via]

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  • Another element of haute couture is the fit, which is one that will never show in a runway show — each piece should fit perfectly, to every body part.

    • Do you think the 3rd still from the bottom fits her every part? She’s sporting armpit boobs.

    • Or the 3rd one from the top?  It’s so loose it could fit anyone from a size 0 to a size 8.

  • Juliana Illari

    Except for those last couple dresses, I can’t see anyone famous, thin and rich wearing any of them. Seriously don’t you have to be at least one of those three to wear couture? 

    • Anna Maria Diamanti

      I could see the Swinton in #3 or #8.

    • Toto Maya

      Marry Kate Olsen wears that baggy grandma crap all the time, she might wear one.

      • I was going “Fanning, Olsen, Fanning, Fanning, Bosworth, Fanning….”

      • Anonymous

        OMG I am in love with the phrase “baggy grandma crap.”  xo

    • Kristy Evans

      I’m pretty sure Florence Welch would wear several of those dresses.

    • Sarah Thomas

      For the first one, all I could think was “Paging Florence Welch.”

    • Aly Light

      A lot of these look like bridesmaid dresses to me. Not in the sense of terrible, shiny, you-will-pay-too-much-for-it-and-never-wear-it-again bridesmaid dresses, but still. Things the person trailing you down the aisle might wear.

    • Anonymous

      Maybe as a bridesmaids dress for a 70s theme wedding

  • Anonymous

    Some pretty pieces, but the collection feels undercooked. 

    I did love the last one though. 

  • Many of these are dresses I’d wear to events if I were trying to get cast in a period film. Modern and pretty, but with an old-fashioned air.

  • Not for the first time do I see some Rodarte rehash in a Valentino collection. This time it’s Fall 2011.

  • Anonymous

    That third look with the puffy sleeves is godawful.  love the white gown with the long sleeves and cutouts, though.  since when is PJ-inspired clothing with granny prints a thing?  This is not my favorite new trend.

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful. And I think you do see the amount of work in the lacework and the fabric!

  • Anonymous

    This collection reminds me of a science fiction story I read once, a variation on Cinderella, in which the main character wore a dress that was little more than electronically generated mist and light and she had to leave the party before the batteries ran out or she would be totally nude. This is a beautiful collection but it wearies me to think that the future of fashion is artful nudity.

    • I love that idea. What was the story, do you remember?

      • Anonymous

        Unfortunately I don’t, and Google hasn’t helped. All I remember is that it was a story in a sci-fi anthology my Grandma had on her bookshelf when I was in grade school, mid-to-late nineties. Probably one with Anne McCaffrey in it, my Grandma had all of her books.

        • The story was called ‘Cinderella Switch’ it was in a collection of stories by Anne McCaffrey called, ‘The Girl who Heard Dragons.’  

          • Thanks!

          • Anonymous

            Yow, three cheers for Mary! And for Anne McCaffrey, bless her soul.

  • Anonymous

    Underwhelmed is an overstatement. I’m sorry, i know i don’t know shit about couture but that fourth one down looks like suburban mom circa 1974 got dressed up for the PTA meeting.

  • Anonymous

    It’s couture for Big Love.

    • Haute Couture on the Prairie

      • Anonymous

        Exactly what I was going to say!

      • Anonymous

        From Laura Ashley.

  • Anonymous

    I think floral prints look tacky and awful in general, and for me, this is no exception. Everything looks like overwrought bedwear.

    • Bedspreads. Bedspreads, bedspreads, bedspreads.

      • ferdinanda

        I agree–all I see are lovely quilts.  And lovely drapes for a wealthy little girl’s room, c. 1905.   

        • Reneesance

          Ugh I know.  Are we going to do the horrible Laura Ashley chintz and toile thing again?  Didn’t we do that like 10 years ago?  It can’t possibly be cycling around again already can it? *sigh*

  • Anonymous

    There are a few nice pieces, but as a collection, you two are so correct. 

  • Anonymous

    feels very 70s to me–I love the 70s, but….? on the fence, at best, with this.

  • I always understood couture to be about construction and fit and not necessarily about aesthetic.  Couture has obviously become an empty fashion term for something it no longer actually is.  I mean, come on, Juicy makes a “couture” line.  And their biggest contribution to the fashion industry has been jogging pants with “Juicy” on the ass.  Hardly fashion. 

    • No “Haute Couture” means what it’s always meant. That other people appropriate the term “couture” incorrectly doesn’t really change that. Juicy doesn’t make a couture line. Juicy makes a line they incorrectly call couture.

      • EXACTLY.  It’s like calling yourself the Queen of France.  Just because you say it doesn’t make it true.

  • Jessica Rowe

    Kara Janx must be working for them now… cause I saw that dress walk down the runway for the opera.

    • Anonymous

      That’s exactly what I thought!  And she was in the bottom, if I remember correctly.

    • Anonymous

      hahaha, I had the same reaction!  Her dress would fit right in to this collection!

  • Anonymous

    I think my mother had some shutters back in the 70s that had inset panels made out of the same material that the 5th dress down was made in. 

  • Didn’t Jessica McClintock and Laura Ashley do these already… in the 1970s ?!?!?!

    • Anonymous

      Yup – and I wore them to my HS dances.

    • Anonymous

      OK I was typing the words “Gunne Sax” by “Jessica McClintock” when I noticed you beat me to it!   I totally wore those to my proms in the 1970’s.  But here’s the thing.. I really have a soft spot for that dress that is third from the bottom.  

  • Anonymous

    I feel like this HC season was weak…Dior’s opening looks looked like RTW as well. I think that RTW is becoming such a scene that the line is blurring. Perhaps the difference is very apparent in person?

  • Anonymous

    This is not my taste at all.  It’s kind of twee and clunky at the same time.  Very bedroom.  Except for the last dress, which does look  like couture to me and is quite lovely.

  • It’s all 1970s Jessica McClintock throwbacks.

    • Jessica McClintock was the first name that came to mind. 

  • Very very pretty. 

  • still waiting to be blown away by a gown …..

  • Anonymous

    Most of these are just a wee too precious for my tastes….
    The long sleeve white dress is lovely, however… all I can see is Nancy Reagan’s head popping out of the neck!

    • Anonymous

      That white one was the only one that particularly caught my eye as well.

  • Anonymous

    Sister wives big night out…..

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. Very, very little of this looks like haute couture. The rest really looks like the spring version of the dramatic Renaissance princess dresses they made for the fall collection.

  • Susana Reyes

    I don’t like it at all.

  • Anonymous

    It has a an early 70’s feel.  Some of that screams Butterick.  Very pretty though.  But yeah, not exactly spectacular.

  • Jackie Lorden

    Most of it looks like drapery and/or sheet fabric.  Pretty, but?

  • Lori

    There are several dresses in this collection that remind me very strongly of my 8th grade formal. I don’t claim to have any expertise in defining what is and is not haute couture , but I’m pretty sure whatever it is, it shouldn’t remind you of Gunne Sax and Laura Ashley purchased at a Midwestern mall.

    • Eva Whitsett

      I also thought of Gunne Sax! Sad.

  • Anonymous

    Most of it is very pretty, but that top in the third look is ugly and ill-fitting. Looks like cheap doll clothing.

  • Anonymous

    what say you sewing siren?

  • Anonymous

    Some of this is pretty but a lot of it is  Ma Ingalls.

  • Terence Ng

    So…1980’s suburban tablecloth dresses are in this season?

  • Anonymous

    I love the last gown, but otherwise I am not a huge fan. I see very little modern with a lot of the looks and do not see any of them being the trend in fashion.

  • MilaXX

    This is bad. It looks old, boring and dated. With the except of the 6th and 8th looks and maaaaybe the last look any gal wearing this on the RC is going to get laughed at. It looks like upscale sister wife clothes & tables cloths.

  • Anonymous

    Well said Tlo. Very underwhelming and often dull.

  • brockwaymetcalf

    Half of them are straight out of the fashion show in The Women.

  • BORED I looked at almost every dress on here saying the same thing… Frumpy and BORING! These prints look dated, and not in a cute way, the dresses are all sacks on the models and the few that aren’t cannot support the full weight of this collection. 

  • This is going to sound very snarky, but what is wrong with these model’s faces????

  • Anonymous

    i felt the same way when i saw this collection. a few of the looks that use lace applique and beading, such as the last photo, have a haute couture feel but still feel staid and dated.  most of these remind me of the hoop-skirted dress that got kit pistol aufed on PR, season 5 i believe, during the “avant garde” challenge.

  • Anonymous

    Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes…these are a few of my favorite things….

  • Anonymous

    Some of those gowns/dresses remind me of the scene where Fraulein Maria (The Sound of Music) uses the drapes to make new outfits for the children. Seriously, I think the Baroness is looking for her (haute) curtains.

  • Anonymous

    and i hatehatehate those loafer shoes. and the ugly severe hair.

  • Some of these are cute, but many of them look like the dress my sister wore in her 1978 senior class photo.

  • Anonymous

    These remind me of Regency Era dresses

  • Not really turning my crank.

  • Anonymous

    Bed linens and curtains

  • I had a nightie very much like these when I was 6.

  • While (some of) the prints are beautiful, I think they overwhelm some of the possibly intricate details that are there. It’s a shame; I think some of them could be so much more stunning than they appear to be in the photos.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll be the odd duck here, but I love it. I think the entire collection is gorgeous and yes, considering they are working with hand-painted fabrics, hand-applied crystals and pearls, and intricate lace applique, I can well understand that 1,000 hours may have gone into one garment. I don’t think the workmanship can be appreciated in the photos. To me, the collection is feminine and ephemeral and easy to wear. And I find it very, very romantic without being cloying. I think all the models walked in flats and I love that. 

    I’ve read the collection described as a cross between Marie Antoinette and the Age of Innocence and I think that’s just about right. I’m not a fan of period drama for nothing and these are right up my alley! There are some stunning pieces in the rest of the collection. I think it comes down to a question of personal taste and I can see that the collection might not appeal to everyone’s aesthetic. 

    • That was my thought, too, oddly enough. Maybe I’m looking at it from a slightly broader historical perspective, but I don’t see Ma Ingalls, Laura Ashley, Jessica McClintock, or Gunne Sax. Honestly? I see what you see. And I could see Cora Crawley in the jacket and skirt with the blue flowers on.

      …of course, I want to burn that third outfit, but there’s going to be one clunker in every lot.

  • Anonymous

    I thought Michelle Williams for almost all of these… or oddly enough Mara Rooney if she’s ready for a new thang

  • I think some of these are pretty, but I thought Gunne Sax was pretty in 1975. Some of the lace does look expensive…

    • Addicted2Glamour

      Gunne Sax is ALL I could think of while looking at these pieces. They are very terribly dated and just don’t have any sort of “oomph.” 

    • Call me Bee

      Well–in fashion as in many things, what goes around comes around…

  • If this is the shape of nouvelle haute couture, sign me UP. I see a lot of wearable pieces, which translates to “if I had a million dollars, they’d be rich”.

  • Anonymous

    I’m sorry but they remind me of the Jessica McClintock dresses I wore to dances in high school. Yeah, I’m old, okay??

  • Anonymous

    I like the last two and #8 & #10 – The ones with long coats over the dresses, the one that’s atypical, and the dark gold wildly embellished one.

    I can appreciate the amount of work (lace, embroidery, very subtle applique) put into the floaty, sheer fabrics as beautiful textiles, but it’s waaaay too floral, juvenile & busy for me to admire it as clothing.

    In other words the basic aesthetic is not to my tastes.

    I bet that the couture-level workmanship is visible up close and can be felt if you were to put one on & have it fitted – even the ones that look [in photos] like very simple shapes made out of cheaply acquired glazed chintz.

    Whether or not the designs are couture I can’t say – re-working the New Look can be couture, so why not re-working some of the 70’s re-working of even earlier styles?  I can appreciate the former more easily than the latter, but those more familiar with couture than I can probably bring a better set of criteria .

  • zzzzZZZZZzzzz. And then I woke up to like the last look.

  • Anonymous

    Many look like wallpaper prints.

  • Anonymous

    Wallpaper, chintz bedding and curtains.  

  • Anonymous

    Haute couture is like obscenity — you know it when you see it.  And I agree, I don’t see haute couture here.

  • It’s granny dresses made from beautiful fabric.

  • Anonymous

    I think it looks like old school Haute Couture, before it turned into entertainment. But to really determine whether it is or isn’t I’d have to see it inside out.

  • The first one especially evoked a floral nightie for me, and a few other pieces looked like something my grandma would have made & forced me to wear somewhere.  It is VERY evocative of early 80s Little House/Jessica McClintok style. It’s not my thing, but apparently it is somebody’s. 

  • So, drapes and expensive upholstery, huh?

  • Anonymous

    I just see a rose bush on the model’s bush in the 4th pic.

  • Anonymous

    OMG, I want the 8th dress (the white eyelet maxi)!

  • Anonymous

    That second dress looks like a Gunne Sax knockoff I purchased at Ormond’s in 1981 for my Junior Prom.  Are we really back to Gunne Sax?

  • Honestly, they’re kind of pretty but all I could think as I was scrolling through them was… ‘tablecloth, curtains, quilt… bedskirt.’

  • Anonymous

    hmmm I think I’ll wait until someone uses it in an editorial before I weigh in.  I do think it’s pretty and ethereal..I can totally see Michelle Williams/Fannings/Emma Watson in these outfits.

    But they are kinda underwhelming at first look

  • Wow. Over all, it looks like an expensive ode to Gunne Sax.

    • Anonymous

      Yup, I thought Gunne Sax and Lanz, as in the nightgown (especially dress #1).

      • I was thinking that the first one reminded me of a faux-Lanz nightgown I made way back when.

        I still have some of my old Gunne Sax and Jessica McClintock patterns.  Maybe I should dig them out and whip up a couple of dresses this weekend…

  • lilibetp

    A couple of these look like something I could run up on my old Singer over a weekend.

  • Something’s off…. it’s reminding me of the Little House on the Prairie or something to that effect. Love the second short, white dress though.

  • Jill Roberts

    It’s CURTAINS for you, Valentino!  CURTAINS!

  • Nightgowns and curtains.

  • Anonymous

    I really, really, really, really love the shoes. That is all.

  • Anonymous

    especially hate the placement of the print in the 4th pic, the day dress? Like she spilled the jelly in her lap at breakfast.

  • A lot of this looks like Kara’s opera dress if she had done it right.  Still not loving it.

    • Anonymous

      JUST thinking the same thing about Kara’s dress.  And the rest of the collection is just “meh”.  One wonders what Val & Giancarlo thought…

  • Anonymous

    The fourth one down may be a little Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie

  • Anonymous

    Was this a bridal collection? Prom? Mother of the Bride?

  • I was a little bit underwhelmed by the photos, but when I watched the collection live-streaming online, everything looked as expensive and hand-made and haute couture as you could imagine. I think the problem is that these gowns make for very ordinary photographs, but the real beauty is in seeing them move.

  • Anonymous

    J’adore the jacket in the still 2nd from the bottom.  Sans the silly bow, of course.

  • I completely agree. No fun if someone has to ask if its haute couture…

    The lace ones look pretty close, and of course the last two look amazing, completely fitting the bill. The coat on the second to last one would look amazing in a host of outfits; I hope some celeb grabs it up quick.

  • Many of the dresses are pretty in a Jessica McClintock kind of way.  The third dress looks homemade and not in the good homemade way–dreadful.  The final dress looks like it has some high end detailing.  If I had the $$$ for HC, I wouldn’t spend it on that collection.

  • Anonymous

    Several of the prints had me thinking “uh oh, Maria Von Trapp has been making clothing out of her old bedroom drapes again.” Pretty, but in a “isn’t that clever to use leftover upholstery fabric like that” sort of way.

  • Anonymous

    I loved the last one, but that’s about it. This does not hold a candle to last year’s collection, which was unbelievably beautiful. 

  • Anonymous

    Could not agree more. Very pedestrian considering.

  • They remind me of expensive Gunne Sax dresses

  • Anonymous

    This is an absolutely stunning collection… of bedjackets.


  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    I see soft floral prints are back, but I see no “haute couture” in this collection.

  • Anonymous

    I saw versions of the “Granny Dress” I wore in the late 60’s and the dress my mom made for my wedding in the mid 80’s – granted better fabrics and fit, but until the last dress I wasn’t excited at all.

  • That last one seemed kind of great until the two thingys were right on the nipples.  EWW. Underwhelming yes, prom, yes.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    last one is major.

  • Anonymous

    I love that red toile strapless dress. 

  • Anonymous

    How many curtains were sacrificed to make this collection.

  • Susan Crawford

    The final two pictures – just beautiful. Yes – that is couture. But overall, I haven’t felt the same magical thrill I always felt when Mr. Garavani was in charge. THERE was a man of passion, designing for women of fashion.

  • R. L.

    Very “Little Outhouse on the Prairie” so a big fat NO.

  • Anonymous

    doing 1971 very well, i think. more some than the others. some of them are updated 1971, some made my head immediately veer into the realm of gunne sax. i dont think they mean that, btw, but thats where anyone who’s old enough to remember is gonna go [& thats most people, if not GS in its first incarnation then in its later one, as ubiquitous vintage]. theyve tossed some era appropriate YSL jackets on top of them too. not that i dont like this stuff, i do like a lot of it. but it’s oddly over reminiscent.

    edited to add:
    ps. & halston, eight down, same era. not that it isnt wonderful, it is. theyre doing a grand job of creating, say, halston same era. but that is what theyre doing. even though they added a waistband.

  • BuffaloBarbara

    A couple of those look like what Laura Ingalls would wear to the church social.  I mean, sure, she and Ma and Mary spent a lot of time sewing on those little decorations, but, erm…

  • Anonymous

    That first dress looks like a Gunnie Sax

  • Anonymous

    I think I disagree. I am getting the feeling that most of these were breathtaking in person in a way that isn’t translating through pictures. Certainly the materials look very, very rich, which is extra-decadent in the more casual styles, to my mind.

    I know everybody’s yelling about Fannings and Olsons and Florence Welch, which I get, but I keep thinking Kiki and Diane Kruger, maybe Zoe Saldana. I bet Jessica Chastain would wear one, though for her it would be a bad idea. Maybe Maggie Gyllenhaal?

    Come to think of it, I would love to see January Jones in some of these–the floor length strapless dresses, and the long-sleeved white one maybe.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure what it should be called, but I find the simplicity of these looks rather elegant.

  • i think its sooo pretty! sooo pretty, idk that it is haute couture though i willl agree there but it really is pretty

  • Anonymous

    Third one down looks like the world’s most elaborate hospital gown.

  • Hmm, they all look like 2nd hand bedspreads, nice ones but bedspreads never the less.

  • Anonymous

    A couple of those printed chiffons remind me of a bridesmaid’s dress I wore in 1983.

    The photographs may not do them justice, I’m sure there’s a lot of detail we’re not noticing. But maybe we’re spoiled by the more over the top shows, which I love, where the hours of work are obvious but where the gowns are not so wearable. With couture sales up substantially, maybe Valentino are aiming to make sellable couture and know their market. However, it isn’t to my taste (not that I’m remotely close to their market anyway!)

  • Anonymous

    Except for 8th and 9th ones down, which I like, this collection looks like something a wealthy Sisterwife would wear.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like a much fancier version of the Laura Ashley stuff my mom used to wear.

  • Martha Anderson

    These all look like wedding attire.  I can see many for bridesmaids and some for bride, particularly the older or second time bride.

    It is all very twee garden party but I am not seeing the WOW that puts it up on the top.

    I am sure the fabris, in the hand are pretty spectacular

  • Call me Bee

    I like it.  It continues the trend of moving away from tough bi*ch, i.e. skin-tight clothes, bear-trap shoes and jumbo handbags, and back to fashion that is feminine and lady-like.  A lot of it is actually wearable, which I ever thought I’d say about haute couture.  It’s usually so OTT and has to modified for actual wear.  But, I’d wear that lilac printed trench in a second! 

  • Only the last dress looks…”couture.” The rest looks pretty, but certainly not worth paying 30K for. I mean, honestly, the second dress looks like a regular old maxi dress- nothing distinctive or amazing about it. If I’m throwing down that kind of money, I need it to be WELL into “fabulous and you can’t get this anywhere else” territory. 

  • Anonymous

    LOOOOVE the 8th dress down, want to get married in that!  Also like the shoes.

  • so pretty!  was their goal me saying “i would wear that” to almost all pieces?

  • Anonymous

    Repurposed shower curtains.

  • Anonymous

    Only the last gown seems appropriate.  They need to take a lesson from Armani Prive

  • Anonymous

    except for the last dress, they all remind me of my 6th grade graduation in 1980.

  • Looks more like “House of Gunne Sax” to me

  • Pennymac

    Gilligan O’Malley prom dresses….

  • Warmheartedgirl Seattle

    Meh.  Not one gown, excluding the last one, that I am dying to see on a star or starlet.  Pretty, but underwhelming, collection.

  • Some of this looks like it walked out of the 1870’s…That’s couture to me (so much sarcasm)…Oh home on the range…Blah.

  • That’s so weird, I didn’t even hear about when they raided my grandma’s shower curtain collection.

  • Anonymous

    Not liking the demure palette, the florals, or the styles in general (although I will never hate a dress with pockets).  Basically these all look boring, which I imagine was not the look the house was going for.

  • Joyce VG

    Get thee to a nunnery! so says these garments.

  • I don’t like all of it, but I do LOVE some of it.

  • The embroidery, beading, lacework, and  cutwork on some of those gowns certainly justify the haute couture price.  But what I find interesting is that there’s one aggressively modern dress while the others are dainty throwbacks. The second gown in the video had a beautiful silhouette; there was something graceful about the sweep of the back that reminded me of the aesthetic dress movement. Actually, I guess there were some other  elements scattered through the collection that could also be read as referential of the movement. 

  • Jena Lohrbach

     I scrolled down and thought, “Shower curtain. Shower curtain. Raincoat. Shower curtain.” It was like that almost all the way through. Once I thought, “Stepford.”

  • Anonymous

    That red & white toile strapless dress is just not working for me.  Looks like kitchen curtains.

  • akprincess72

    Reminds me of the Gunne Sax dresses I wore in Jr high…