PARIS — PARIS-From Gianni Versace's heady curtain raiser to Christia Dior's glamour, the haute couture openings offered a diverting antidote to the gloom of war.
Hotels and restaurants are half empty and street traffic is light as people stay home and watch television.
But the spring and summer fashion showings are crowded, the major defectors being Americans and Japanese. There are plenty of Europeans to take up the slack.
There is excitement in the salons as hemlines continue to rise to improbable heights.
A few attempts to lower them have not been noticeably effective in daytime clothes. Colors are pale and winsome or intense, and patterns are often kaleidoscopic.
Having been revived in the last few years after being eclipsed by ready-to-wear, the luxury branch of fashion is not about to let its advantage slip.
All the houses so far have made a major effort.
Christian Lacroix, whose powers of invention brought couture to life, still makes clothes that demand attention.
There is a little more structure this time, a few more suits.
Hubert de Givenchy, who epitomizes the French couture, began his show calmly with sensibly tailored suits, moved into soft printed silk dresses and then, wow! Evening was a knockout.
Almost all his dresses bared the knees in front and floated to the floor in back.
Audrey Hepburn, seated in the front row, was asked if she would wear them. "I did," she said cryptically. Her association with the designer dates to the 1950's when he made her clothes for her role in "Sabrina."
Jean-Louis Scherrer dedicated his collection to peace. The final model, his daughter Laetitia, carried a dove and an olive branch with her bridal gown.