Terrific coats, ranging from trenches to military greatcoats to scallop-edged furs were at the heart of some of the standout collections for fall. Beautiful evening looks were part of the action, too.Dolce & Gabbana: Napoleon Bonaparte — emperor, egoist, good-looking guy in a frock coat. And what a way with the ladies. On that point at least, he has kindred spirits in Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, who became smitten with him after reading Stefan Gläser's book, "Frauen Um Napoleon (Napoleon's Women)." They were so taken with it that they decided to use it as their fall inspiration, no doubt elated by the possibilities for the gender play they love. The result: a delightfully bold, flamboyant affair. Perhaps also inspired by their man-muse, the designers waxed a bit political before the show. "Femininity is power," Dolce declared. And if they could express that yin and yang might in precision piping and grandly buckled boots on one hand, and oh-so-ethereal embroideries on the other, what feminist babe wouldn't join the cause?The set, an elaborate carousel constructed of gleaming metal pillars, was supposed to resemble a life-sized jewelry box. (Power trip be darned. Women, according to Gabbana, "are true jewels.") The show opened with some major construction, flashing enough highfalutin military regalia to win back Waterloo. Truth be told, it bore some trappings of a costume fete — all brass-buttoned, gold-bullioned and cutaway. But then, these designers place no premium on subtlety when working a motif. Besides, the goods looked great: coats in cashmere, rich skins, weighty silks and wools; jackets in ostrich, velvets and fur, some feather-trimmed. And one can assume any girl not ready to ship out in her gussied-up admiral's breeches can find dressed-down duds in pre-fall. As for Josephine's side of the story, a few rich-toned velvet dresses, belted high in that essential Empire way, segued into the finale of spectacular eveningwear — 13 gowns crafted from silks, feathers, beads and 46 archival Lesage embroideries. Despite their gentility, each was a high-impact stunner. In other words, perfect, because, just like Josephine, Dolce & Gabbana's girls like to be noticed — especially at night.Surely Napoleon would approve. Though he may have had larger issues in mind, his words could just as well apply to event dressing. "Glory is fleeting," the Emperor said, "but obscurity is forever."Fendi: As they say in the circus, the show must go on. So after the collapse of the photographers' stand that resulted in one sprained ankle and a walkout by nearly all the other photographers, Karl Lagerfeld's fall show for Fendi not only went on, it did so with no more than the standard delay. Perhaps they knew they had a winner on their hands — step two in Lagerfeld's master plan to conquer three fashion capitals with very different collections. The mood for Milan and Fendi: clean and structured, with a soupçon of Space-Age chic. The cleanup had started for spring. But while then, the look was all girlish wiles, here Lagerfeld pared down even more while upping the chic factor, and the attitude, with a new sophistication. To that end, he favored short, controlled cuts in sturdy, wintery fabrics, emboldened with graphic slashed pockets and belts threaded through side slits for a free-fall cut in back. In fact, Lagerfeld loves the waist. He cinched it, smocked it and corseted it, countering the looseness with graceful lantern-sleeve blouses worn over trousers for a faintly Forties vibe. And he worked the shirt motif further still, countering all the structure with fluid dresses that boasted a rare feature — manageable bubble skirts. As for the furs, some found them too quiet for fall at Fendi. Yet one could delight in a little shrug jacket over a gold bustier and skirt; racy short numbers of the cinched-front/loose back variety, and more decorative fare, including a group of tailored whites piped in black, and sheared scallop-edged numbers in pale gray and beige combos. Round two — a low-key hit for Karl; one more to go.Burberry Prorsum: Just like his perennial muse, Kate Moss, who simply glowed in the front row at Thursday evening's show, Christopher Bailey's once-waifish and slightly wayward Burberry girl has grown up a lot over the past few months — and she's certainly looking the better for it. His striking fall collection gave off a high-beam polish he's never exhibited on the runway before. Toning down the quirky Brit cool that's defined his previous collections for the house, Bailey deftly took his look from coltish to graceful in a single bound. It was a smart move that came at just the right time.He began, as he has in the past, by drawing directly from the deep Burberry taproot — namely, the trenchcoat — reviving that classic, this time in ever more fabulous forms. Out they came: bordered in rich fur, sleek in luxe leather, snazzy with jet beading or demure in fine lace. Something for everyone — or several somethings for those with a budget that allows. Furthering his newly sophisticated point of view, Bailey also sent out plenty of sportswear, including loads of featherweight sweaters and unfussy tiered skirts, as well as sharp men's suits and quiet chiffon dresses. The look was fresh without ever resorting to gimmicks, and, though there was a whiff of nostalgia in the air, it wasn't era-specific. Bailey's bright-eyed new approach championed fine-tuned, intriguing clothes without a hint of irony.

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