Not all hourglass dresses are created equal. At Prada on Thursday evening, one hitting the runway featured stripes in front and back, Baroque swirls on the sides and two bright gold monkeys grasping the waist. A perfect example of what Miuccia Prada called “exaggerated simplicity.” And a perfect example — yes, another one — of why, after all these years, Prada continues to captivate.


Those frolicking monkeys were just two of the many pictorial primates, so how could one not think Darwin? No, Prada has not, is not, will not redefine our entire view of the history of life. But she has dramatically impacted the modern view of fashion for 20 years. She is a species of one that adjusts almost instantly to the stimuli around her and what she senses ahead. As a result, what she has to say never seems useless or old. And like every species that survives into the next era, she shrewdly retains the mundane essentials, even if she’s too clever to trot them out on the runway, which she reserved for more evolved fashion wonders.


“I’m tired of minimalism,” Prada said before her show. “I asked myself, ‘How can I do minimal Baroque?'” Her answer? Simple shapes, explosive color and multiple patterns including the aforementioned monkeys and — what else — bananas by the bushel. Underscoring her audacity, Prada didn’t only wear plastic banana earrings for her curtain call, she — she of the remarkable vintage fine-jewelry-tiaras-included collection — claimed to now “only love plastic ones.” Prada also loves seemingly plain-cut clothes such as a round-shouldered, stiff T-and-skirt combo; a curvy flight attendant suit; a slipdress. Only they came, respectively, in the previously noted pattern play, paired with a giant striped sombrero, and cut in a newly loosened shape.


Along with the sombreros and flora-fauna prints, a pair of dresses with Carmen Miranda silhouettes heightened the suggestion of south-of-the-border festiveness. But the clothes were plenty urbane, too. In fact, the more cautious among Prada devotees will find plenty of chic black looks from which to choose.


And what woman isn’t ready for a playfully sensible shoe, if you consider tricolor-soled platform sneakers in that category? (These and flatter versions were derived from the designer’s men’s collection.) Even Prada’s dressier shoes, multicolored of woven check Forties-ish platforms, looked refreshingly wearable. The terrific bags were bold and graphic. But not nearly as bold as Prada’s favorite accessory — big, fluffy foxtail stoles in impossible-to-ignore cartoon stripes. Naturally selected for controversial chic.

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