Emporio Armani: Role Reversal

It's as if the Pope switched religions. "I just want to make dresses," Giorgio Armani declared after his Emporio show on Monday. And that's just what he did, through at least half of the collection.

Giorgio is absolutely smitten with the baby-doll. It came out in countless sprightly incarnations, most often layered, with little vests or X-back vest-dresses unbuttoned over a second dress. There were also versions with high-waisted drawstring fronts and flyaway backs and fluid A-line renditions. Armani did them in everything from solid wools and jacquard knits to crushed velvets.

Although the baby-doll was the unquestioned star of Giorgio's runway, he is apparently convinced that there are still some fashion nuns roaming the cloister, because he also sent out more than a few long, fluid dresses. His tailored news was a new short, fitted jacket worn over very slim velvet pants, although he also showed his classic wide crepe trousers that float like a sigh with each step.

Another big change is that Giorgio -- who last spring was one of fashion's premier travelers on the road to Morocco in both his Emporio and signature collections -- abandoned the exotic route this time. These clothes would be right at home in any modern-day big city.

Missoni: Desert Foxes

Tai and Rosita took a magic carpet ride for fall and came back with jewels, turbaned genies and Arabian tapestry motifs. The result was a veritable desert caravan, all shown to the tune of the "Aladdin" soundtrack. The playful tulip skirts and flippy dresses were best, and the body-hugging printed velvet tank dresses were also strong. But the heavy pantsuits in rug-like patterns didn't quite get off the ground. All the major retailers flocked to this big commercial house; Missonis are always hot sellers at the top stores in Europe.

Escape to New York

What's going on in Milan? First the house of Versace says it's thinking of going public -- on Wall Street. Now fashion powers here from very different ends of the spectrum are talking about taking their shows to New York. "I'd love to do it, and we may," said Stefano Gabbana. "People here are behaving like such stronzi about things like the schedule, it's ridiculous."Meanwhile, Aldo Pinto, chairman of Krizia, said he is discussing a New York show with his designer-wife Mariuccia Mandelli. "The only problem is that it's so late for the selling season. I don't know how they manage to deliver so early when they show so late; it's amazing."

Rifat Ozbek, who's been preparing his collection here for a show in Paris Friday, confessed that he'd be happy to keep on moving all the way to Manhattan as well, if he could figure out how to deal with the shorter selling season. And Gianni Versace, who had been described in one Italian press report as about to decamp for Gotham, backed off a bit when asked to confirm the story. He's toying with the idea of doing a show in New York, according to his house, but is not considering abandoning Milan altogether.

Al Dente

It must have been a slow news day in Milan for the Washington Post's Cathy Horyn. Horyn, who roamed from bitchy to bored in her Monday review of the weekend shows, mixed a new ingredient right into the middle of her copy: a recipe for risotto Milanese.

Alberta Ferretti: Girl Talk

Milan still has a heavy enrollment of flirty schoolgirls. And they're getting high marks at Ferretti, either in boxy, diamond-patterned twinsets over short pleated skirts or fly-away dresses. Ferretti knows that nothing is more charming than a great little dress, and she did quite a number with the chemise -- in chiffon, tucked and released to all but float away, and in brocade spliced with wedges of chiffon and organza. In fact, the mix mania launched at Dolce & Gabbana took hold here as well, but without a tomboy in sight.

Velvet collars and cuffs on coats, jackets and sweaters were just the beginning. Alberta also played with fluffy Mongolian lamb trim, organza sleeves on brocade jackets and velvet with chiffon. And the more discordant the mix, the better; jackets and coats in sturdy brocades, mohair and even suede looked terrific when tossed over the flimsiest silks. Ferretti is full of ideas, though she sometimes overstated them, as with her penchant for upholstery fabrics. After all, even Scarlett got limited mileage out of those recycled curtains.Krizia: Youthquake

Mariuccia Mandelli is on a big youth kick these days, and, in the collection she showed Monday, that came through loud and clear. She took her turn with the baby doll in fluid ribbed knits with bell sleeves and with cozy pullovers worn as dresses that recalled a college girl who's raided her boyfriend's closet. Granted, Mariuccia's pullovers are in beefy cashmere, and they're worn over gold lame catsuits and matching construction boots, but then, Mandelli is into blatant sexiness. In a season of very short skirts, she has shown the shortest in Milan so far. In fact, some were so short that a few models pulled on the back of their skirt hems to -- as the saying goes -- cover their behinds. Still, Mariuccia did send out nicely tailored jackets and pants, some in fluid pinstripes with metallic blouses and others in neutral wools. And the sweeping pastel shearlings over matching ribbed tunics looked very good. When night fell, however, she got lost in a tired-looking sea of very sheer T-shirts and dresses with crazy iridescent pleats and swirls.

Anna Molinari Blumarine: Lolita Lives

The way Anna Molinari sees it, there's a little Lolita in every woman. She certainly plays the part herself; she even took her curtain call in a pram. Recently, it's a pose that's been paying off. Anna's hot, and the collection she showed Monday for Blumarine should do nothing to tone down her image. Billed as an homage to pinup artist Vargas, it started with terrific short, close-to-the-body suits and coats in Easter-egg colors, worn with campy Victorian bonnets. And there were some of those sweet-smart twin sets that are turning into an important look here, worn over flirty skirts, as well as short, lean black dresses with pristine white collars and cuffs. But so much for Lolita's quiet side. When she's in a steamier mood, she can show up in see-through layered lingerie laces or salon-girl frocks with plenty of back action from frilled, pleated bustles.

Katharine Hamnett: Split Personality

Whose clothes are these, anyway? The hip lass in lively argyles and short skirts? Or her sober sister, in dark and proper wool layers? Or the lost soul, in a fake-fur minicoat, red fishnets and spangled spike heels? You could say it was all over the place -- but then, you could also say there was something for everyone.Milan Monday

RENA LANGE: Lange's well-heeled clients will have plenty to wear for their round-the-clock agendas this season. For lunches, there are pinstriped, tartan and herringbone blazers over pleated micro-minis, and for cocktails, ribbon-detailed pink wool crepe suits and black velvet frock jackets with plaid miniskirts. When night descends, the options are sexy little black handkerchief dresses or lace ballgowns in flaming red.

ALMA: Maurizio Pecoraro, design consultant for Alma, has definitely caught silver fever. Even his catwalk shimmered, covered with sand and metal grains. And he added metallic coatings, glitters and flecks to most of his looks. Sometimes it worked: the short, silver or gold belted raincoats, the mohair and metallic sweaters and the gold sneakers looked good. But toward the end, it just became overwhelming. Thank goodness for the argyle-print micro-sweaters and matching skirts in grays and sands.

Byblos: Johnny One-Notes

There was a major case of mono on the Byblos runway. Virtually every outfit was monotone head to toe, from the pale, puffy silver coats over metallic hooded tops, short skirts and boots that opened the show to the dark, iridescent silver-and-gray finale. Designers Keith Varty and Alan Cleaver even capped their models off with identical short blond wigs.

Many of the coats were quite appealing, especially the puffy long and short silvers. The boys did their turn with the Short Suit in lavender woven or ribknit wool, and gave a nod to the schoolgirl with mohair-and-metallic sweaters over ruffled minis.

But there were just too many heavy, tired-looking layers. And by the show's end, monotone had turned more than a bit monotonous.

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