Give your everyday wardrobe a boost with some couture inspiration.

Pierre Balmain and Ruth Ford in 1947

Paris is home to some of the greatest museums and galleries in the world. It plays host to innumerable famous works of art by arguably the greatest painters and sculptors of all time: da Vinci, Degas, Monet, Matisse, Rodin, Brancusi – the list is endless. A couple of weeks ago, Paris hosted a display of rather different art. Subtle hues were contrasted with rich colours, modern cuts were given an edge with fine detailing, sequins glistened under the bright lights and models were transformed into birds of paradise. I’m talking, of course, about the haute couture shows.

Couture, unlike other forms of fashion, is not designed to be plucked straight from the runway and into the wardrobe. Every piece is crafted by hand, and is more of an artistic interpretation, rather than a functional item of clothing. (This is in slight contrast to the times of Pierre Balmain in the 1940s.) For me, no one epitomised the true essence of couture this season better than John Galliano, head designer of Christian Dior.

Though always a thrill to watch, this particular Dior show certainly did not disappoint. Pillar box-red coats, dresses and skirts burst onto the catwalk, together with blacks and greys. Volume was present in the form of exaggerated A-line skirts and coats, whilst dresses were adorned with large bows. A true homage to the powerful female figure; classic silhouettes were given a modern twist with sharp tailoring, obi belts, futuristic headpieces and asymmetric necklines. Bold colours such as red, purple, blue and orange were offset by neutral white, black and grey, steering away from the current colour-blocking trend. Feathers were used in coats, scarves and headpieces, reminiscent of Rodarte’s costumes for “Black Swan”.

The Givenchy couture collection was not as dramatic as the Dior show, but was in no way less breathtaking. White played an integral part in the dresses, which were sheer creations, with swans creating the body. The white was juxtaposed with large, neon embellishments on the backs of the gowns, giving a more solid basis to some of the more subtle geometric shapes. Structured shoulders gave a masculine feel to the soft colour and fine material, and large, Viking-style hats were perched precariously atop the slender models’ heads. I am not usually a big fan of neon, despite it being back en vogue every few years, but I did love the bright, lime green touches that added depth to pale lilac creations. The yellow feathers, which flowed towards the bottom of a particularly minimal sheer dress were also beautiful, giving movement to the fine lines and cut.

The Chanel headquarters, Paris

Chanel is always a firm favourite with me. Truly, Karl Lagerfeld can do no wrong, but I was surprised at how wearable this collection was. Indeed, there were few pieces that I would not wear just as they are. White tweed coats were embellished with black detailing and then layered over simple, sequined skinny trousers. These skinny trousers were to play a key role in this show. The black detailing present in the jackets was carried over to elegant, simple shift dresses, paired with black, pointed flats. Sequins were also included in belts and the lapels of coats, in black, silver, pink, orange and purple. Structured dresses and skirts with subtle floral prints were worn with button-up trousers, adding to the layered effect, which was present in almost every look. The whole show was a great representation of that elusive Parisian laid-back chic.

This is all very well and good if you are prepared to splash out thousands of pounds on one outfit, but I don’t think our student loans will stretch to that. However, there are ways of translating the concepts of these shows into your everyday wardrobe. For example, sequins are spilling out of the high street shops at the moment. Try to put your own spin on them. A sequined belt or blazer layered over a floaty, floral dress will give a hint of Chanel. Or why not be daring and try bold, statement colours like that Dior red, which looks great with neutrals. Don’t be afraid to show off curves with a cinching belt and an A-line skirt (these also look great with blazers). Tall girls can really pull off the maxi skirt or dress trend, but take a leaf from Givenchy’s book and try something sheer, so there is more intrigue in the layering and pattern.

If you are not ready to try neon in clothing then opt for accessories. Neon shoes and bags look amazing with basics and are an instant facelift for your more wintry outfits (I love mixing camel and neon). This is a great example of how investing in a couple of key items can really drag your wardrobe out of the snow and into the spring.

I think what can really be taken from the couture shows – and this is true every year – is inspiration to try to stand out and be original. Wear something that is going to get people talking and will make a real statement.

Tara Atkins