MILAN: PLAIN AND FANCY
MIUCCIA PRADA FORMS AN INTELLECTUAL SORORITY, WHILE GIANNI VERSACE ZOOMS AROUND DANGEROUS CURVES AND KARL LAGERFELD CLEANS UPS AT FENDI.

PRADA: Sometimes the better part of fashion is discretion. And, at least for now, Miuccia Prada is the discreet school's headmistress. Let others go the slick-chic route. In the collection she showed on Thursday, Prada's cacophonous spring hipsters gave way to a more genteel, intellectual sorority with a vaguely English feeling. These are the kind of girls who might have gone to Oxford and studied hard--they're far more likely to spout Auden than cheer the cricket team.
The beauty of this collection--and beautiful it was--lies in its simplicity. There's a sense of calm, even innocence, about it all: Check your fashion pretensions at the lecture hall, Prada seems to be saying now. After two seasons that straddled very different--and not always attractive--sides of kitsch, she dared to present a collection that looked remarkably under-designed.
Miuccia proved you can be a Plain Jane and a knockout at the same time. She showed the simplest cashmere and silk sweaters in camel or gray over pants or midcalf skirts, refined peacoats and graceful high-waisted wool dresses. There were also diaphanous chiffon blouses with ruffled plackets. Everything was worn over colorful lace almost-argyle tights and Prada's new shoes: high, with sturdy, curved heels and a brownish vintage look.
The show was put together in the most seemingly offhanded way by Miuccia and her new head stylist, Alexandra White. (In the interest of frankness, it should be noted that White is also a freelance contributing editor at W magazine, sister publication to WWD.)
But few collections rate a summa cum laude, and Prada unfortunately slipped a grade by continuing her spring dissertation on prints. They weren't as ugly as last season's, but they came close, although the campy camouflage did have some humor. Yet she recovered brilliantly with the gentlest, most ethereal--and, yes, sexy--evening dresses imaginable, cut in soft-hued chiffon and inset with strips of beading. It was a dream come true for brainy, beautiful coeds, and, perhaps, Uma at the Oscars.

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