Yohji Yamamoto Fall 1998 Ready-to-Wear

[Editor’s note: This collection was originally presented on March 14, 1998, in Paris at the Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, and the photos have been digitized as part of Vogue Runway’s ongoing efforts to document historical fashion shows.]

Yohji Yamamoto is a designer who is in the habit of returning to themes rather than abandoning them. From a distance of more than 20 years, we can see that his fall 1998 collection both reprised the cozy, chunky knits he had introduced for fall 1995 and introduced the bridal motif he’d double down on for spring 1999.

You could say that the fall 1998 lineup was about stretch—or in more contemporary parlance, that the designer was literally flexing. There were a lot of knits, both of the loving-hands-made-at-home variety and jerseys. Yamamoto explored the draping possibilities of the latter, but he also combined jerseys with more static woven materials. Postshow the designer told The Daily Telegraph that his idea was “to experiment with the ‘delayed’ reaction of certain fabrics contesting the movements of the body.”

With the exception of the finale look (more on that later), this was a relatively sporty show, even when it came to dressing for evening. Vogue photographed Angela Lindvall leaping through the Irish countryside in a knit ball skirt and ribbed turtleneck from the collection. As the Detroit Free Press acknowledged at the time, “Yamamoto is trying to nudge fashion in a looser direction.” And perhaps also in a more contemporary one as well: For the most part Yamamoto’s historicisms referenced the 20th century (the cargo-pocket peplums looked like a pre–World War II silhouette) rather than earlier periods.

The caged finale gown, with its hyper-exaggerated 19th-century proportions, was the exception—and exceptional in every way. It was even accessorized with Doc Martens, according to Jodie Kidd, who wore it. Sally Brampton, reporting on the show for The Guardian in 1998, recounted that “the bride billowed down the catwalk in a cream skirt so huge that journalists in the front rows had to duck down below the skirt, only to discover a bamboo cage strapped around her waist with canes radiating out from it. Four men held up the vast My Fair Lady picture hat that floated like a snowdrift over her.”

A season later, Yamamoto would deconstruct the wedding dress in a memorable show at the Moulin Rouge (a place, one wit noted, better known for stripteases). That collection could be construed as a love affair with a dress, or the transformational female fantasies associated with both fashion and marriage, but in 1998 the designer was in a different frame of mind. “He said he was playing up to mass-market conceptions that fashion was ‘extravagant and stupid,’” The Daily Telegraph wrote. “The runway becomes more exaggerated, and that is the entertainment value of it all,” noted Richard Martin, then the curator at the Costume Institute, when interviewed later that year by The New York Times about the broader societal fixation with everything bridal. “If you assume the wedding dress is the symbolic finale, it makes sense that it’s going to be more hyperbolic than ever.” It’s not just sex that sells, after all.

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