“Romantic Baroque.” That was the ruse for Domenico Dolce and StefanoGabbana’s collection, a motif rich with material from the island theyadore, Sicily. The designers established the tone with an elaborateinstallation — their runway under the glow of 16 massive two-tierchandeliers, wrapped in flowers and festooned. The girls emerged from ahuge gilded picture frame, also done up with flowers.

Moody andfanciful, the set sent the message that here would be no minimalistmusings. But then, who would expect that from Dolce and Gabbana? Whichhas become a problem. Not that the designers don’t do minimal, but thatthey have ceased to unsettle our expectations. “We’re always asked to beourselves,” Dolce said before the show. “The challenge is to remaintrue to Dolce & Gabbana while renewing ourselves, so we work onmaterials and research.”

This season radiated the benefits ofthat very impressive work. Heavy gold embroideries on black, inspired byornately carved frames, were the principal motif. Exquisitely rendered,they appeared on everything from outerwear (coats, jackets and capes,one of which appeared to weigh more than the model who wore it) to thenecklines and waists of pretty dresses. On the lighter side, beautifulwhite laces and tulles were worked into dresses and blouses, and if theyspun a familiar romantic yarn, it was a lovely one. Otherwise,petit-point florals and dark cherub prints infused color.

Overall, the lineup played as costumey, not in itself a problem; thelong fashion season needs shots of grandeur and theater. And the showincluded beautiful clothes for the discerning shopper. The shortfall laywith the familiarity. Absolutely, Dolce and Gabbana must remainthemselves; to do otherwise is fashion suicide. But the fashion selfshouldn’t be content with redux. There are too many other selves outthere, some of whom dare to push their own envelopes.

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