MILAN — Good girls, bad girls, boy-girls — they’ve run rampant around Milan all week. Guess which ones hit Donatella Versace’s Versus runway? Versace believes that if you have it, you should flaunt it, and she’s happy to help a girl out along the way. On the other hand, Miuccia Prada’s Miu Miu miss is more demure — or is she? While Prada mostly worked the innocent schoolgirl motif, she also let her girl get in touch with her inner exhibitionist just a bit.
Of course, Prada is a master at working both sides of an equation. While last season she catered to a Plain Jane with a penchant for military flourishes, this time she turned more overtly feminine, with a gentle, Seventies-Victorian spin. She decked her models out in gentle dresses sashed and tied in back, worn with colorful tights and high-heeled mary janes. These charmers were part of Miuccia’s continuing seasonal dyslexia, their wispy silk prints replacing spring’s heavy mohairs just in time for the autumn chill. As for her new knits: they were also light as air, with tie-dyed athletic strips at the waist and sleeves. But as they’ve been saying in fashion for years, there are no rules anymore. And to be fair, she did show a few terrific coats in boiled wool.
On the sturdier side, the denims looked great, especially the shirtdress with an inset waist and flirty peplum jacket. And Prada diversified the rampant baby-doll trend with a pair of dresses in stiff wool. But every girl’s got to come out of her shell — and her clothes — sometime. Miuccia’s did it on the runway, parading flimsy blouses over hose and panties, sans benefit of bottoms (except their own). Pretty, yes. New, definitely not. But then, sexy dressing is as old as the fig leaf.
A point Versace knows all about. To her, the word wallflower means Dylan progeny, and she can’t imagine why any woman would dress to fade away. “Don’t be afraid to be noticed,” she says. For her fall Versus collection, Versace renewed her favorite game plan: prints, sex, attitude. And while the romp packed in enough strong items to keep us interested, the journey didn’t open any new doors.
Donatella loves a bold pattern, and she showed plenty. Irreverent red, white and blues, anyone? How about bright orange geometrics? There were crisp coats with a Seventies feel, And what fun-loving type could resist a pink fur baseball jacket with bright red ribbing? Versace also showed lots of furs and, thank goodness, because a girl needs something to cozy up in when she’s running around in microminis or the tiniest corduroy gym shorts and sheer textured thigh-highs. As always, she bared plenty, keeping her skirts short and shorter. But enough is enough. In an ongoing fascination with sheer, she, like Prada, couldn’t resist an I-see-England-I-see-France interlude, hers with webby dresses over briefs. And like Prada’s, it just felt like the wrong side of retro.

Moschino and Moschino Cheap & Chic: In a literal take on the masculine-feminine trend, Moschino cast half of its models in drag, their hair slicked back and swaggering down the runway in pinstriped suits, walking arm-in-arm with other models glammed-out in ribbon-trimmed faux Chanel suits. It was a chance for butch-chic models like Eleanora Bose to really shine. But take away the cheeky role-playing and what was left were strong classics with clever details: navy dresses and suits with drawn-on pleats and belts, classic suits with hand-stitched lapels and dance dresses strewn with fabric petals. It was a strong mix of commerce and comedy.
Meanwhile, for Cheap & Chic, the design team took the audience through a day in the life of its ideal woman, from the moment the stylish maid arrives with a breakfast tray. The lady of the house emerges from the tub, yawning, a towel wound ’round her hair. But instead of a bathrobe, she wears a pink fur coat. Later, she’ll rest up in pink silk pajamas, and when she goes out, she favors the flamboyance of Carmen Miranda frills.
This line, too, had its share of contradictions, as spring-like tea dresses shared the runway with fur-trimmed suede bombers. Some items, like tea-towel skirts and eyelet-trimmed gingham coats, were over-the-top, but in most cases the degree of novelty was just right, evident in miniskirts with tiers of small ruffles and prim coats festooned with strategically-placed flowers.

Bottega Veneta: Only a few years back, Bottega Veneta meant nice shoes and nice bags. Nice as in polite. Nice as in well bred. Nice as in the sweet-faced girl next door. But, oh, how times have changed. That cutie-pie has moved to a whole different zip code. From first to last, the fall collection was brash, brazen and at times brilliant. Tough little leather motorcycle jackets with polished silver toggles, leather cheerleader skirts and black knits punched up with green leather insets were the Eighties-style stuff that translates into almost any wardrobe. There were faded jeans that were cropped, cuffed and came out one pair bigger than the next; a stiff black patent leather coat and short skirt, and loads of edgy accessories.
On the plainly tacky side, however, were Japanese-cartoon-porn-printed shearlings and liquid latex tank tops. Japanese porn? Liquid latex? Bottega’s old customers wouldn’t touch the stuff. And while the company’s new fans may be excited by the thought of slumming for a while on the wrong side of the tracks, they’re probably not planning a permanent move. The Bottega girl is wowed by her cooler-than-cool new friends — for now — but deep down, the kind of peer approval this luxe lady is looking for comes from the co-op board.

Luella: As most troublemakers know, having a bad attitude can be a whole lot of fun. Luella Bartley’s punk chick is all riled up and rowdy to be sure, but just because she’s a bit of a tomboy doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate the perfect denim mini, even if she’s going out for a stomp. In honor of her anarchistic idols, the designer’s Milan debut included distressed prison-striped blazers and cropped pants that came via the Sex Pistols, neat modish shirts and thin matching ties, wide striped angora sweaters with matching scarves and even a tough little fur jacket.
She might talk the talk, but take away her Dr. Marten’s boots and Bartley’s is a rebel so squeaky clean you could take her home to meet your folks, tiny red suspenders and all. Luella’s dad, who watched from the audience, was certainly pleased with the collection. “She always comes up with all these great ideas,” he said, beaming. Mr. Bartley probably didn’t see Rei Kawakubo’s last Comme des Garcons collection, which covered the same terrain — color palette, inspiration and graphic aggressive attitude.
But so what? Luella did come up with some great clothes. And what did you expect? She’s a bad girl, remember?

Ruffo Research: If Robin Hood and his merry band were actually a well-dressed troop of Amazonian star troopers living in the year 2070 A.D., Lieutenant Sophia Kokosalaki would be their on-board couturier. Okay, it wasn’t as kooky as all that, but her fall collection for Ruffo Research had an organic but futuristic edge of the sort that is quickly becoming a Kokosalaki hallmark. Leather corded banding set off the shoulders of suede jackets like a hint of delicate armor, while the sharp patterns of her coats were articulated with inset leather strips.
In the name of all that is delicate and feminine in the land of leather, the designer’s softly and suavely pleated tan suede top and others in leather crossed with braids, chiffon and fur, sent forth a rallying cry. Even the simplest leathers were topstitched in hypnotic and subtle patterns that turned them cool. Kokosalaki’s on her way to becoming a captain — and fast.