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Late 2000s fashion – a runway selection.

April 1, 2023

Late 2000s fashion was conspicuous for its muted colours, simple silhouettes, and luxury fabrics. John Galliano did his very best to be, as he put it, “fresh and restrained” for Dior with a lovely cream and black palette. Valentino’s work was in stark white, with unusual space age sleek structures.  Of course some designers, like Jean-Paul Gaultier, bucked the trend and did what they had always done with global and historical influences.

Autumn/Winter 2008 on the runway

Take Autumn/Winter 2008 on the runway for an example of late 2000s fashion. Some designers were so simple they were space-age sleek (Valentino), and others veered in the direction of something more crazy (JPG).

Late 2000s fashionDior AW 2008

For Dior in 2008, John Galliano made references to Dior’s most well-known collection, the 1947 New Look. It started off quite conventional, with a gorgeous cream shawl collared coat-dress, full skirted ballerina length and nipped in with a wide black belt. Well, Ok, the belt was more of a patent-leather corset and the model’s shoes covered in silver studs.


Next was a great rendition of the Bar jacket, a classic from the same year. The original featured padded hips and could be worn with a pencil skirt or a more full one. Galliano chose a pencil skirt… But his was in see-through voile. The rest of the details were there, with the sombre black colour and padding, but this had a draped collar and a swag of fabric hanging down.


The look after that took the bell-like curve of the hip padding of the bar jacket and divorced it from its origins. It became an under bust corset in silver-studded white patent leather, tight to the rib cage and flaring out. The pocket flaps flowered outward into flounces. It was worn atop a grey puff sleeved blouse, and a ladylike pleated knee-length skirt… Except this, too, was see-through.

The Originals Subverted

And so the collection went on, with recognisable parts of the original collection subverted. Dior’s 1947 collection to which it referred had been fetishistic, so it wasn’t inappropriate to highlight that. The very tightness of the designs and the corseting required  was peculiar for women just out of the war. Here Galliano added to it with the shiny leather, silver studs, and transparency which were more the fetishes of a 90s gay scene. They did not wear body harnesses, but the look was close.


Three years later in 2011, John Galliano was to be disgraced and fined in court for a racist and anti-Semitic outburst in a bar, and never absolutely regained his star. But in 2008, he was rising high and designing loveliness.

Late 2000s fashion – Valentino AW2008

lLate 2000s fashion - Director Baz Luhrmann, Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani (L) and Designer Valentino Garavani attend The New York Ball: The 20th Anniversary Benefit For The European School Of Economics at Trump Tower on November 19, 2014 in New York City

Director Baz Luhrmann, Editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia Franca Sozzani (L) and Designer Valentino Garavani attend The New York Ball: The 20th Anniversary Benefit For The European School Of Economics at Trump Tower on November 19, 2014 in New York City JoeJDunn, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2008, Valentino’s autumn/winter show was designed by Alessandra Facchinetti. The critics hailed her as a breath of fresh air. She was inspired by paper sculpture, embroidery and van Dyck paintings. 


Valentino Garavani himself was delighted with her work, saying that she “respected a master”. The founder of Valentino had retired last season but was still keeping an anxious eye on things. But next season, things were different. Valentino was complaining that “There is an existing archive with thousands of dresses where [a designer] can draw and take inspiration from to create a Valentino product that is relevant today. It is a shame that [Facchinetti] didn’t feel this need.” After just two seasons, Facchinetti was unexpectedly fired. It was even unexpected by her, as she learned about it from the press, twenty-four hours after her SS 2009 show. 


But all this was to come. Her Valentino AW2008 show was amazing. It opened with an off-white jacket that looked seamlessly moulded, over a ballooning asymmetrical  knee-length skirt that seemed to support itself. The next look used embroidery and chiffon, but the chiffon in particular was very lightly handled with very cute tiny pagoda sleeve caps. Next was a smooth off-white jacket. It almost as long as the above-the-knee skirt it was paired with, its only feature a dead-centre split. It rose to an upright collar. If the first look had been quite 60s space-age Paco Rabanne, there was something very Star-Trek about this one somehow.


Other looks were less space age, giving way to very textured embroideries and chiffon columns. Colours were bone, white, cream and black, but also lime green, scarlet and deep turquoise.

Late 2000s fashion – Jean-Paul Gaultier AW2008

JPG opened with brown, black and grey, as per the sartorial colour rules that year. But he couldn’t resist exploding into lime green, orange, scarlet, hot pink, violet and electric blue later on. His work was particularly interesting around showing cages, whether that was the cage shape of a crinoline, but the boning made decorative and worn as an overskirt, or that same boning made into a cape and upholstered in velvet. These provided textural contrast to pieces, and sometimes were also made in a contrasting colour to an under layer. Particularly pleasing was chocolate brown over violet.


His use of matching tights – hosiery the exact same shade of electric blue or scarlet as a skirt worked really well too. John-Paul Gaultier’s models actually did wear body harnesses, not the fetish kind but ones with a distinctly horsey whiff. They were strapped over matching fur coats along with saddle-like epaulettes. And in case we were in any doubt about those references, some of the models sported a cage-like twist on riding hats.

Chanel AW 2008

Someone who did stick to the monochrome memo of black, white and grey for AW2008 was Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel. There were just three exceptions in a collection of 64 pieces – hot pink, coral, and parma violet.


Amongst these pieces was a lot of neat suiting, fine chiffon, and tweedy flecks. Car coats were in grey tweed, with the only adornment a neat frayed edge. There were the traditional cardigan jackets, of course. Another highlight was lovely simple bell-skirted dresses, just above the knee and with ruching to pull them in at the natural waist. The decoration here too was lines of frayed fringing. Other pieces were more radically embellished with ruffles and embroidery. Puff sleeves also made an appearance.


Most outfits looked very classic with just one that was confusing. The skirt greatly resembled a semi-folded umbrella. But other than that, the collection was cool, classic, and chic.


Of course, this is just a little peek at the full picture of late 2000s fashion. What appeared on the catwalk wasn’t always what people wore on the streets. Especially because catwalk shows were not live streamed then, trends were not instantly taken up. New ideas were not reflected right away.

In general, away from the red carpet what you’d see every day whatever the fashion trends was high waisted skirts, Ugg boots, tank tops, crop tops, cargo pants, bootcut jeans, skinny jeans, low rise jeans, leather jackets, capri pants, and flip flops. Studded belts were a popular accessory.  Britney Spears popularised the brands Ed Hardy and Juicy Couture in the early 2000s.