So, after more than 20 fashion shows by the big-league designers in Milan, what is going to be the big news for spring? Not a great deal. Most of the clothes have clean rather than cluttered shapes, most lean to the skinny rather than the oversized, and to neutral or pale colors rather than Bright. Armholes remain wide for roominess at the top of clothes and lots of the emphasis is placed on the hips, with yokes on skirts or holster-style belts. Minis are meant for the beach and most other skirts, mostly narrow in shape, hover at the knee. Pants are often cropped above the ankle.
One of the rare innovators in Milan is Gianni Versace, who refuses to rest on the things he does best -- jackets and trousers in leather. "The advances must be in technology now," says Versace, who has advanced the metal mesh he started working on six years ago. Now it is decorated with flowers and even madras plaids and drapes over the body like dresses of silk.
While working in his palazzo on Lake Como or in the stark, white modern office on the Via Della Spiga decorated with what looks like classical statues, Versace has also come up with a complicated print of mixed geometrics and an angular, draped blouse that he calls his favorite of the season.
The Italians have moved on from the dots and dashes of last season. The new print wave is flowers and leaves, a natural for summer. They are done on such a huge scale at Missoni, Versace, Ferre and Soprani that they are almost unrecognizable until you are told what they are. Being so overscale makes them difficult to copy into cheaper clothes because it takes so much space to repeat the pattern. It is a very expensive way to make prints.
Jeans are back on the streets in Milan. Giorgio Armani probably has something to do with that since Emporio Armani, his jeans store, sold 16,000 pairs of his jeans from the Milan store alone last season.
There are also lots of miniskirts in denim being worn in Milan and on the runway. Karl Lagerfeld did pin-striped blue denim for a very businesslike suit for Fendi.
Armani plans to free himself of the signature eagle that first decorated his shirts and now adorns everything from hats to shoes. On his desk recently were sketches for a future collection of men's sweaters -- without an eagle anywhere. But lots of "E.A.": his initials. Armani, like others, is putting the status insignia on the sleeve.
Almost every Italian designer has done bathing suits cut high on the thigh and bare in front and back. What looks newest are the strapless one-piece versions.
"These bathing suits aren't for sunbathing," explained Carla Fendi. In Italy you sunbathe in the nude in many places. And they are hardly meant for swimming. "It is the kind of thing you might wear like a bodysuit with a skirt or shorts when you go for drinks or lunch at the beach," she explained.
The Elizabethan ruffled tops and bloomers that closed the Missoni collection were not the designs of Rosita Missoni but those of her daughter Angela. Actually, they were mostly the things she had designed and worn for her own wedding.
Mariuccia Mandelli of Kirizia has a new way to keep the fashion fold afloat. She's done a group of separates, pants in particular, made of cork. The items from a distance look a bit like Ultrasuede but up close they have a marvelous natural look, and needless to say, are very light.