MILAN – "Back to the Future" could be the title for this round of Milan preview showings of sensual rather than sexy clothes, inspired by couture but designed with a slick contemporary edge.
The clothes have 1960s chic but could also appeal to young women in search of an appropriate wardrobe.
"These are clothes for polite dressing," Ken Downing, fashion director at Neiman Marcus, said to reporters Monday, the last day of the fall-winter 2010-2011 showings.
He picked Kate Middleton, Prince William's future bride, as representative of the new look. "It's been a long time since there was a young elegant role model," Downing said.
Major trends for next year's cold weather are sleeveless coats, quilted skirts and coat and dress ensembles.
Textiles play a big role in the new collections, working leather and fabric to look and feel as light as chiffon.
Lace and lurex add luxury to the discreet look, as does the showy jewelry, which turned up on the Milan runway for the first time in many a season.
Colors are in sync with the toned-down styles, from rose and wine red to turquoise and royal blue, being among the most popular.
Pumps and slingback shoes worn with sheer stockings accompany the ladylike look, along with small bags and the "must" pair of long leather gloves.
If next winter marks a return to chic, then Giorgio Armani is a step ahead.
In over 30 years on the runway, understated elegance inspired by the tailored style of Milanese women has been the designer's trade mark.
His latest collection presented Monday, with pop star Tina Turner sitting in the front row, fits the current mood like a glove.
The new Armani black suit exudes class with its double-breasted tiny buttoned long jacket paired with a wide trouser cut, cuffed at the ankle. Another jacket in soft pleated fabric buttons up the back recalling a couture blouse.
There is a soft fluid feel to the collection, with its long skirts and dresses which caress the body but never hug it. Colors range from black, pewter and brown to romantic powder pink.
Fabrics including velvet, silk and chiffon, researched for super softness, complete the look. Footwear is ultra feminine with peep toe satin heels embroidered in lace and satin embroidered short boots.
The designer decorated his collection with a myriad of sequins and lurex fabrics, a trend seen on many runways over Fashion Week. But at Armani, glitter sparkles rather than dazzles. Elsewhere, showy jewelry jazzes up downplayed styles, but at Armani rock crystal and filigree do the job.
The DSquared2 womenswear show Monday was a carbon copy of the designing twins' mens winter collection shown in January: same Wild West outpost backdrop, same distressed jeans, worn leather pants, denim suits, wool capes, vests, kerchiefs, and in the ladies' version white working aprons.
But then the rough outdoors is a favorite look with the Canadian duo, who often work their collections around a ranch theme.
In this round, shown on Monday, things change in the evening when the Dsquared2 woman tosses her apron and turns up in the saloon in a super sexy long black gown worn with no-nonsense lace-up boots.
The designers complete the look with felt hats and sturdy gloves and belts with furry holster pockets: in short the perfect wardrobe for a contemporary cowgirl.