Milan fashion designers are investing heavily in gold, no matter what the stock market is doing.
Gold lame, gold sequins, gold embroidery and gold baubles figured prominently in styles for next spring and summer that were presented in Milan over the past week, as if to impart the Midas touch at a moment of economic uncertainty.
Perhaps it is not coincidental that the era most frequently evoked during Milan fashion week was the roaring 20s, seen through its sequined and beaded drop-waisted flapper dresses. The carefree, fun decade ended with the devastating 1929 stock market crash.
The collective fashion response from Milan seemed to be: If we’re all going down, let’s at least look ladylike.
Styles on the Milan runways were decidedly mature, not girlish. There were proper leather handbags with handles or smart clutches.
The sandal has returned, replacing last year’s practical boot, in heels or platforms. Often gilded, the sandals proved challenging to some models who stumbled on the runway, as well as to fashionistas attending the shows, who quickly adapt to even the mere whiff of a trend. Makeup was mostly natural with flashes of glitter, and hair, often teased, was pulled back.
Summer next year marks the return of the pleated skirt, often with demure, knee-length hemlines. Soft cuts were set off by lace, satin and chiffon fabrics — sometimes paired with heavier textures like leather and wool.
Designers didn’t forego sexy looks. While keeping the skirt lengths long, they allowed women to show off their legs with deep slits or sheer fabrics. Necklines plunged, shoulders were bared and backs dipped low.
The drop-waisted and no-waist dresses gave designers all the license they needed to play with beading, sequins and fringe. Embroidery was another favorite. In another nod to glamour, many trotted out cinched-at-the-waist swimsuits.
While shades for the summer are mostly muted, there were some flashes of color in bold tropical prints, animal patterns and floral designs. The burst of color was the surest sign that Milan fashion remains upbeat despite the gloom.
“A pearl of a lady” is how designer Giorgio Armani defined his 2012 summer woman. The ultra-feminine collection is created out of fabrics that have the iridescence of a precious pearl and the lightness of a feather.
Departing from the dress and skirt look proposed by most designers in Milan, Armani favors wafer-thin trousers delicately slit in the front. He pairs them with a jacket, cut on the bias and devoid of collar and buttons, or allows them to peep out from under a skirt or dress.
Water is another theme of the collection, with iridescent aquamarine and white silk for satin gowns with sequins, which sparkle on the outfits like a morning dew.
Dress hemlines range from knee to ankle, and are cut from ultra-light fabrics that caress rather than hug the body.
Mixing night and day, the designer paired his evening wear with flats, saving high heels for daytime dressing. For his finale, Armani sent out three models in identical see-through strapless evening gowns, chastely covered in a shower of raindrop sequins.
Donatella Versace showed her second line Versus collection in the courtyard of the Versace palazzo in downtown Milan late Sunday. The summer Versus girl, as viewed by Scottish designer Christopher Kane, hand-picked by Versace to revive the once-flourishing line aimed at the younger set, is athletic and sexy.