MILAN -- So what do you wear to a recession?

Milan's darling of the moment, Gianni Versace, says you pop back to the '60s and brighten the gloomy econocasts for spring-summer 1991 by wearing wild prints, tip-to-toe color and jeweled bodysuits.

Giorgio Armani advises tightening your belt -- the leather belt with the hand-tooled silver detailing that you wear over your Emporio Armani jacket.

Dolce & Gabbanna's designers want you to girdle yourself for tough times by wearing corselette dresses draped with Chanel-inspired gold chains.

Gucci suggests carrying your deflated dollars in a leather hobo bag and hitting the pavement in tennis shoes worn without laces.

Pucci believes in staying out of the red by wearing it -- especially in combination with pink and purple.

And every designer in Italy seems to agree that a cutback is in order -- a hemline cut back so far it gives new meaning to the word "short."

The talk at the Fiera, where most of these twice-yearly shows are held, is about lower attendance, the rocky state of American retailing, the lack of consumer confidence, the battered dollar, the high cost of high fashion and the lack of fashion newness.

The most positive assessment of the scene here comes from Aldo Pinto, who owns Krizia with his wife, designer Mariuccia Mandelli. "We shouldn't be too pessimistic," says Pinto. "After all, we cater to the rich." He goes on to say that with today's ready-to-wear prices at the level of haute couture prices 20 years ago, there is a need for less expensive, or "diffusion," collections such as Krizia Poi, Versace's Versus, Valentino's Oliview, Fendi's Fendissime, Gianfranco Ferre's Studio 000.1 and Armani's Emporio Armani.

These second lines are becoming more and more important here for news as well as price. At Versace Jeans Couture, for example, colorful printed denim jeans with button-fly fronts are being snapped up to retail in the United States at $180 to $200. At Oliview, where prices are about half of Valentino ready-to-wear, buyers were especially pleased with the new seersucker shirt-chemises with matching jackets. And at Emporio Armani, there was lots of talk about the new importance of belted jackets.

The big look of the season to date comes from the '60s, when Pucci and Gucci were the status symbols of record, baby-doll dresses and shifts skimmed the thighs, and headbands held wigs in place.

The designer who started the current '60s look-back is Versace, and he is now looking at that decade with revisionist originality. In his virtuoso presentation Sunday night, he proved himself the new print master, the spiritual heir of Emilio Pucci and the designer everyone wants to follow. Versace's new prints are an eclectic combination of pop/op graphics, modern art and Vogue magazine covers. In explaining the Vogue tie-in, Versace says: "I would surely have never thought of conceiving a shirt composed of past and present Vogue covers if Anna Wintour {the editor} had not asked me to participate in the collection of funds to benefit AIDS research being promoted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The proceeds from the worldwide sales of this garment will be consigned to this organization."

From the sleeveless little shift dresses worn with matching pantyhose and shoes in Day-Glo colorations of yellow, pink, green, blue, red, purple and orange to the printed baby-doll coats worn over sleeveless or strapless baby-doll dresses and the black and white dotted pantsuits with striped sleeves, the high-energy look of the clothes never faltered. The printed leotards and unitards resemble body tattoos. The most luxurious renditions are both beaded and printed (some with the same Marilyn Monroe face Versace used in his haute couture collection last July, others with both Monroe and James Dean). As one of the models pointed out backstage after the show, these amazing "double-skins" are made of sheer Lycra and embroidered with gemstones and sequins.

Compared with Versace's brilliant use of brilliant colors, other spring-summer collections literally pale by comparison. Desert colors, white and ivory, pale, pale pastels and delphinium blues abound. The Pucci print influence continues strongly with the 75-year-old Florentine designer's daughter, Laudomia Pucci, announcing that "black is out."

Other continuing influences that began last season include: unitards (Missoni's sequined floral print version got buyer raves), headbands (Byblos matches them to the outfits they accompany), hot pants (Mario Valentino shows them in black suede under a long pink suede jacket with striped sleeves) and sheers (Krizia's new T-shirts look as if they're made of stocking fabric, and they are worn with nothing underneath).

While there are a few safari looks and desert colorations, the Persian Gulf crisis has not inspired a new rash of militaria from Milan. At least not yet.