Tom Ford adds to glitz for London Fashion Week

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Irish designer Paul Costelloe used his traditional role opening fashion week to show a series of short, flirtatious dresses, many in monochrome silver-gray with well-patterned, subtle fabrics. The spring and summer 2012 collection was offset by several bursts of color in impressive brocade dresses.

He showed a number of short jacket dresses, some with high cowl necks, and also several black and white striped smock dresses. Some models wore sleek pantsuits with flared trousers.

There were few formal touches, and Costelloe seemed to be striving for a celebratory mood despite the early hour of the 9 a.m. show.

“Every piece was beautiful,” said shoemaster Jimmy Choo, who sat in the front row. “Paul is an inspiration and a role model to young designers. We’re all here to support Paul _ he’s a good man and a good Irishman.”

The fashion week headquarters at Somerset House next to the River Thames was jammed early Friday morning as the shows began. Some with special invitations complained about having to stand with “the rabble” as they waited to gain entry to the Costelloe show, but most were good-natured.

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CAROLINE CHARLES

Longtime British designer Caroline Charles turned to the French Riviera _ and American jazz _ when seeking inspiration for her spring and summer 2012 collection.

There were dramatic silhouettes, elegant evening wear, and liberal use of jaunty straw hats, often with hatbands that played off the colors of dresses and pantsuits. A green dress was set off by a green polka-dotted hatband as she made full use of the possibilities of a simple accessory.

Charles, who worked with fashion legend Mary Quant before branching out on her own, turned her back on many modern trends, embracing prints that relied on hand drawn designs, not computer graphics, and turning her back on body-hugging cuts. Many of the silk dresses had dropped waistlines, pleats, and fluted hemlines.

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BORA AKSU

Turkish-born Bora Aksu, one of the many Central St. Martins art college alumni who have built successful careers in London, Friday showed a series of dresses with elaborate corsetry and gauzy, revealing patterns.

The sexy pieces relied on hand-made leather details, Edwardian lace and startling pleated ropes for their unique look. Waists were cinched to emphasize the female form, and some gauzy panels, combined with distressed fishnet tights, gave the outfits an edge.

Many of the dresses relied on variations of white and ivory. Most went well below the knee. Some of the black outfits used black mesh panels and rope to complete the look.

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