Gianfranco Ferre: High Times

Gianfranco Ferre is the high priest of the haute mode in Milan. He loves grand, expensive clothes and on Thursday brought the season here to a close with a collection that was characteristically high on drama and beautifully finished. It was obvious that Ferre had really worked on these clothes, although the collection occasionally lacked focus.

His new, high-waisted wool pants gave the illusion of an impossibly long leg, shown with western-style, duchesse-satin shirts. Ferre also showed very short skirts over opaque thigh-highs and two-tone tights. But he gave even more attention to long lengths. In fact, long may have gotten off to a slow start in Milan, but, by week's end, it was evident that it's not quite "finito." Ferre cut his long skirts and dresses in bold stripes, solid wool, silk and lots of knits, and they were tight and sexy enough to compete with any micro-mini for attention.

Gianfranco's coats were terrific, especially the great, sweeping military numbers, which were sometimes faced in velvet. At night, Ferre blended fluidity and drama with a group of intricately draped gray jersey gowns. He also showed ottoman velvet columns with geometric-patterned chenille trim, diaphanous white chiffons and a gray ombred chiffon slip.

But Ferre's haute tendencies can lead him astray. And they did with those black-and-white dinner suits, detailed to the nines, and those blouses with big, detachable sleeves that went pouf.

The Trends

THE DRESS -- Everybody's doing it. But when even Giorgio Armani (at Emporio) and Jil Sander cross over, you know it's important. Key shape: still the baby-doll.

THE SHORT SUIT -- For tailored heat, with snu jackets and A-line or flippy skirts.

THE SHINING -- From lamÄ to Lurex and way beyond, to Vinyl Cyberspace -- Milan was Shimmer City.

SKINNY PANTS -- The wide leg is still here, but the news is pencil thin.

SPOTTED FEVER -- Milan's a zoo of fake leopards, cheetahs, ponies and zebras.

POOR LITTLE LAMBS -- The shearlings were real, often patched and unfinished.

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