MILAN: INGENUES AND SEDUCTRESSES
AS THE SAYING GOES, IT TAKES ALL KINDS TO MAKE A WORLD, AND THAT WAS CERTAINLY DEMONSTRATED AS THE MILAN SHOWS CONTINUED. MIUCCIA PRADA DID INTRIGUING VARIATIONS ON QUIET SCHOOLGIRL AND INGENUE LOOKS FOR PRADA, WHILE DONATELLA VERSACE’S VERSACE COLLECTION WAS LUXE, FLASHY AND A LITTLE TRASHY.

Prada: Miuccia Prada’s fancy has kept fashion riveted for years, and last season’s return to sobriety after a lengthy fling with romantic eccentricity took many people by surprise. For fall, her celebration of plainness was both beautiful and intriguing, straddling the line between intellectual fashion and wallflower chic. But then, nobody plays to the ironies of fashion more deftly than Prada; you can take the clothes at face value, or seek out all sorts of greater implications. Certainly, over the years Miuccia has cultivated a role as the deep-thoughts priestess of fashion, even if at times she has deliberately kept that tendency in check.
Prada’s girls were quiet but far from serene; this is a mouse who can roar when she wants to, looking great all the way. There’s something, if not sinister, then at least unsettled to Miuccia’s demure miss, whose penchant for precise lines with geometric details recall Mia Farrow’s stunned young wife in “Rosemary’s Baby.”
The mood ranged from schoolgirl to sleek ingenue, the former in pleated skirts and fabulous Empire dresses that were ringers for Ossie Clark’s, the latter in stiff, boxy jackets and coats over ribbed leggings that flared over the shoes like spats. If — and only if — a girl’s got the legs, the look’s divine. But every girl will love the colorful, textured hose, spit-and-polish Mary Janes and terrific lace-up Edwardian boots. And as for the fur, it’s not easy to make broadtail young, but in Prada’s hands, it works beautifully for trust-fund teens. The height of austerity came in capes, not those with the grand sweep of a Bronte heroine’s, but with the hard, domed shoulders of the Salvation Army bell-ringers, cropped at the elbow.
Yet such austerity creates its own alternative romance, as Prada did for evening. Then, she only hinted at lightheartedness with wool carwash dresses over fluttery chiffon.

Gianni Versace: Versace designs for a woman who thinks and flaunts like she does. Her program notes explain her m.o.: “above all, a woman must dress to please herself,” and “she certainly does not forget her prerogative during the evening: seduction.” It’s when practicing the art of the latter that the Versace woman is most herself. So when Donatella notes that she focused on sportswear for day, squash the images of sweatsuits and sneakers: “Of course, darling — it’s sportswear my way.”
It’s a way that will please plenty of women, not to mention the men in their lives — plenty flashy, a little trashy and great-looking. You’ve got to love a woman who’d hit the charity lunch circuit in a jumbo feather print, dragging a fluffy fur parka behind on the floor. Or turn up at the PTA in a long, curvy skirt or new three-piece suit: fur-collared corduroy bomber, second-skin pants and big, leather-trimmed bag. And what woman doesn’t love the denim life, even if it’s faux, in leather dyed and distressed to look like the real thing?
When her focus turns toward that p.m. pastime, Versace’s stuff of seduction was up and down. Her ode to bondage in beige didn’t work, especially when she put the “A” in T & A with a molto-peculiar beige leather pelvis and bum inset in a black jersey dress. On the other hand, gowns with cinched waists, plunging necklines and bare backs will leave ’em dazzled.