>> The death knell on couture has been sounded many a time before, but as Fall 2010 couture season comes to a close, Cathy Horyn seems to think the passing of couture is inevitable. She writes: "Like perpetually dieting designers, haute couture is definitely shrinking before our eyes. Oh, don’t be fooled by the giant lion at Chanel, which, depending on how you look at these things, is either an example of Karl Lagerfeld’s brilliant stagecraft or an advertisement for a new Disney restaurant chain. Most of the remaining half-dozen or so houses that show haute couture scaled down their presentations this week: a nip here, a tuck there and a PR man explaining in a hushed tone that the designer wanted to 'return to couture’s roots.'"

Is it all downhill from here? »

Horyn points out that the sets at this season's couture shows were "less extravagant than in the past": "Dior’s show in a tent behind the Musée Rodin was lovely, with an orange flower as the background, but 10 years ago the house took over a wing at Versailles. Givenchy skipped a show, and instead Riccardo Tisci put 10 outfits on forms . . . it was just a shame not to see these spectral clothes on moving creatures."

"Why not just hang a sign on the door that says 'Shut'?" she posits. "Unless you have been catching up on Gossip Girl reruns, national deficits and unemployment do not correlate with a couture dress that costs as much as a Harvard education. Couture is slipping off people’s radars faster than a U.F.O. And virtually all of the luxury companies, while their businesses have recovered, are focused on China and the hungry Chinese consumer."

But it's not all hopeless: "For as long as haute couture lasts, it will prove its worth by doing things that can’t be done anywhere else, and by opening dead eyes."