Modern Living: Punch, Oui; Power, Non

The salons were just as crowded, the mannequins as crisp and undernourished, the designers every bit as giddy and harassed as usual. The French fall fashion collections last week attacked the same urgent questions (whither hemlines? whether bosoms?), but the answers were not expected to come out of Paris alone. The punch is there still, but not the power.

In the 1960s, there were few major U.S. department stores that did not depend for inspiration and line-for-line copies upon Paris haute couture. The knock-off Chanel suits and ersatz Givenchys were prized along with...

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