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The Lightness of Being – Emporio Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, D&G

Suave, sophisticated looks rendered with a light hand are undeniably charming -- and so are innocent-looking frills.

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Suave, sophisticated looks rendered with a light hand are undeniably charming — and so are innocent-looking frills.

Emporio Armani: There’s no time like spring for letting in a little fresh air, which is what Giorgio Armani did in his Emporio Armani collection on Monday. His program notes called the look “deliberately casual,” which offered more clarification than a post-show press conference, during which the designer offered the bon mot that, “a pantsuit worn by, say, Lauren Bacall, does not look the same when worn by Marilyn Monroe.”

What exactly either woman has to do with Emporio matters less than the fact that it did indeed feel delightfully casual after fall’s particularly contrived outing. Not that this was a sportif free-for-all. The deliberate element showed up in some still overly zealous styling — dirndl skirts pulled up at the pockets to reveal perfectly cuffed Bermudas. And Armani’s fascination with showing in pairs, as if his target audience were a community of elongated Olsens — remains a mystery. But such contrivances aside, the collection boasted plenty of delightful clothes in a newly savvy presentation.

Accent on the plenty. Armani showed 111 looks on 111 models, who moved through the via Manzoni store fast enough to keep you from counting. They went from sailor to chichi and from refined to racy. The preferred silhouettes started with a small top, the volume on the bottom. To that end, there were terrific little jackets, some nipped in, others on the boxy side but still spare, with thick self-braid trim. Then came spiffy sweaters, striped tanks with Art Nouveau cutouts at the waist and a pair of adorable suede vests with crochet edging. These mixed and matched over slouchy trousers, miniskirts and others cut in multiple, floaty tiers.

Evening, too, stayed on the casual side — too much so, in fact, when girls dressed in sheer shawls over skirts looked shamed by want of a proper top. The skin show proved unnecessary, since a sweet black slip showered with tiny flowers looked the best kind of sexy — the wearable kind.

Salvatore Ferragamo: Graeme Black has positioned himself as an even-keeled defender of the polished everywoman this season. And his pared-down look for Salvatore Ferragamo struck a fine chord. It was sophisticated enough for the corporate world, while maintaining an easy femininity.

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His look was a touch graphic and had a hint of Gatsby, but really timelessness instead of trends ruled the day. Black showed a wealth of soft knits: a polo sweater in graphic cream and black; a lacy, open-work camisole, which was paired with a breezy skirt; a demure knit dress flecked with gold. There were cardigan jackets and even a full-length knit gown. And he took the tailoring nice and easy with fluid pants.

While his show notes called for far-flung exotica — inspiration from Byzantine mosques, the Bosporus, Ottoman villas and the Marmara — Black’s suave reality made for a truly welcome trip.

D&G: It’s pretty hard to miss the point at a D&G show. When Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana commit to a trend, boy, they don’t mess around. And this season was no exception. They showed snowbanks of white frills of the pretty and pure variety. There were corsets with quaint covered buttons, layered lace prairie skirts and filmy gowns banded with ribbon trim. A dreamy pointelle dress oozed Seventies romance, while lacy “Like a Virgin” mini frocks came from the following decade.

Where the designers took a different tactic, however, was in employing a feather-light touch in the styling department. They kept their familiar club vamp at bay, courting instead her wistful cotton-clad sister. And allowing these dewy clothes a little room to breathe gave the line a fresh new look.

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