Playful gender-bending at the Paris fashion shows

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PARIS (AP) - Blurring the lines between the masculine and feminine is as old as Shakespeare.

Wednesday’s fashion week previews in Paris _ the second of eight days on the spring-summer 2013 calendar _ showed that, over the centuries, playful gender-bending has lost none of its creative allure.

Dries Van Noten, who cut his teeth as a men’s designer in Antwerp, produced the day’s strongest show, mixing traditional menswear cuts with his own floral signature in a harmonious play on color.

Damir Doma, meanwhile, who also trained in Antwerp, fused masculine-tinged Cossack gear, martial arts dress and buckles alongside more feminine touches.

Black, an unusual color for spring, also featured highly on the rotation list _ with London’s Gareth Pugh channeling a dark hard, masculine femininity that seemed to indicate the 31-year-old designer was coming of age.

Thursday’s shows include Manish Arora, Balmain and Nina Ricci.

DRIES VAN NOTEN

Dries Van Noten once said: “The more clashing it is, the more that I like it!”

This statement should have been proven true by the Antwerp designer’s patterned and flowery ode to spring _ a commanding show that mixed up wildly divergent textures, styles, cuts and shapes.

He presented ruffled 3-D flower appliques and floral prints mixed with blown-up Prince of Wales check, plaid, tartan and beaded denim. Those were pursued eccentrically down the catwalk by sheer organza shirts, metallic menswear jackets and oversized peplums.

Yet the preview, incredibly, was of the most harmonious Van Noten shows in some time, owing to its fine tonal color palette. Traditional tartans blended softly into a haze of faded orange, peach, rose, nude, russet, silver and duck egg blue.

It felt like spring was in the air.

DAMIR DOMA

Croatian-born designer Damir Doma went East in an ambitious show that included Russian Cossack garb, Oriental kimono-sleeve jackets and even white belted karate tops.

Tight, high-waisted looks and a peppering of leather Obi-belts were followed by baggier silhouettes with dropped centers of gravity. Colors ranged from black, brown and navy to turquoise blue and cobalt.

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