For the most part, fashions for spring and summer have taken a very casual, if not downright sporty, turn. We’ve seen t-shirt dresses, jersey looks, bomber jackets, super-short shorts, and plenty of fun and floral prints. Judging by what has come down the runway so far, it would seem that the majority of people are taking one giant holiday come spring.

Elie Saab goes exactly the other direction with a collection of dresses and gowns that are elegant, glamorous, and anything but casual. Other designers may be putting their models in sandals, but Saab puts his in four-inch stiletto heels to create the most attractive calf extension possible. Other designers may be cutting up and disassembling gowns, but Saab reminds us just how wonderful those gowns are supposed to look in the first place.

Coming down the Elie Saab runway is a rainbow collection of Chantilly lace as thin as a baby’s breath, constructed and sewn with a level of precision and quality one isn’t going to find in casual wear. Appliqued flowers, sequins, and paillettes give a 3D texture to pieces that make a strong statement about femininity and beauty. Corset detailing, pencil skirts, split column dresses, and full skirted gowns are no surprise but Saab even finds a way to make jumpsuits appropriate formal wear.

Working from a palette that starts with rose then moves to jade, raspberry, white, grey, and black, Saab gives his audience plenty of choices so that there is something appropriate for any formal occasion. Deep plunging necklines give a sexy feel to some dresses while others with soft shoulders and collarless scoops are sufficiently conservative for a head of state.

The Beirut-born designer knows his audience well. A third of these gowns will wind up on red carpets next award season, draping the bodies of the world’s most beautiful starlets. The other two-thirds will primarily stay in the middle east where women attending up to 40 weddings a year need a separate gown for each day of the three-day events. These are pieces specifically designed to one-up anyone wearing any other designer’s gown.

So, Elie Saab isn’t for those whose wardrobe is confined to the casual doldrums. He’s okay with that. When you do need a dress that outshines everyone else, he knows who you’re going to visit.

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