Summertime looks are spilling onto Milan's winter runway.
Perhaps designers are taking a cue from the unpredictable and increasingly mild winters, filling their collections with looks once reserved for warmer weather. The February temperatures were decidedly springlike during Milan Fashion Week, which was in its fifth day Sunday _ affirming designer's choices .
Even functional daytime dresses can be sleeveless. Shorts are having their winter incarnation. Lightweight jackets are replacing bulky coats. Don't even think about mountain parkas or ski wear _ they are not for the well-heeled urban girl.
Fur is more of an accent than a necessity, turning up as oversized collars, on shawls and as hats. Shoes are open toed, or even variations of sandals. Bare legs are perfectly acceptable.
If the temperatures turn, however, there are plenty of layering options _ clearly a trend _ from knitwear to coats to capes to long vests.
Black velvet, black lace, black chiffon and more gold than even Midas could muster are the basic ingredients of the dramatic Dolce&Gabbana winter collection.
Dramatic, as well as theatric.
Front row guest, British actress Helen Mirren, on her way to pay her compliments to the designing duo backstage, described the clothes as both "decadent and opulent" and said she loved "every bit" of the show.
However, the actress best known for her role as Queen Elizabeth II, in "The Queen" which earned her an Oscar as best actress in 2007, did not dip into her theater closet for reference, but rather said the show "spoke to my Russian roots." Mirren's father was a Russian nobleman.
For another front-row guest, Italian actress Monica Bellucci, the show was "molto Siciliano," a reference to the Dolce&Gabbana fashion vision.
Either way, there was definitely an aristocratic feel to the collection, from the dainty gilded head dressings that framed the models' demure hairdos, to the dainty little buttoned booties that adorned their feet.
Styles ranged from coats to capes, from long sheaths to ballooned shorts, from pleated skirts to ruffled tops. But no matter the cut, gold _ whether beaded, sequined, embroidered, or simply worn as jewelry _ made the difference.
To lighten the look, the designing duo interspersed white or pretty Victorian floral patterns into the basic black palette.
Missoni's look for next winter is urban nymph. In the woodland fairy sense.
The silhouette of the collection was slim. Tightly-fitting knit pants, figure-hugging dresses and wraps that button in back to a snug close all allow the Missoni heroine to nimbly navigate the concrete jungle.
In the sleek vein, designer Angela Missoni introduced a new texture to the Missoni look: latex. Gray latex gloves and corsets provide a protective layer for our adventurer.
While the sleeveless dresses and lightweight wraps could easily transcend seasons, Missoni also fortified the collection with winter-ready items such as stole wraps that snake around the body, knitwear coats with fur collars and fur hats that swirl around the head.
Missoni also glitzes up the collection with sequins _ a trend on the Milan runways _ reaching for more natural hues of copper and silver.
The basic color scheme was graphite, evoking asphalt, set off by autumnal hues in browns and oranges and forest greens.
Footwear included boots with decorative panels in the back extending down to the thick heel _ creating accents in gold, faux wood or the Missoni trademark knit _ or similarly adorned high-heeled pumps.
Always hovering in the background during this round of Milan collections is a romance between an officer and a damsel, as in so many 19th century love stories _ only the woman is playing both roles.
This is particularly evident at Ferragamo, whose winter collection starts with a parade of gold-buttoned double-breasted military coats and ends in a waltz of romantic evening gowns.
The Ferragamo collection was previewed by Massimiliano Giornetti, who also designs the label's menswear.
By day, the Ferragamo woman favors a crisp gray flannel double-breasted suit complete with epaulettes, or a lightweight Astrakhan fur skirt under a double-breasted jacket.
She will wear horsey boots, but prefers a high-heeled version in embroidered suede.
Her gold-buttoned military coat hides a fetching black wool lace dress or printed ruffled skirt underneath.
Nighttime tells another story. Here our heroine shows her true feminine soul, in a bejeweled chiffon evening dress with spaghetti strapped V-neckline and ballerina skirt, or a transparent embroidered peasant blouse with matching shimmery silver silk skirt.
Footwear for the ballroom is an open-toed Victorian lace-up or a high-heeled Mary Jane. A pretty embroidered clutch bag reminiscent of a Faberge decorated egg complete the story.
Marni is getting decorative for next winter.
Big brooches, beads and sequins were featured in the womenswear collection _ accents that are cropping up all over the current runways.
"Jewelry becomes an integral element of the garment," the fashion house noted.
Large white sequins and golden beads covered the front of a dress, a skirt and a clutch, creating the impression of an exotic flower garden. Round golden brooches mimicked buttons down the front of black jacket with short sleeves bedecked in golden sequins.
Designer Consuelo Castiglioni's collection carried a strong graphic element, both in the prints, seen in lightweight dresses, and the bold blocks of color on wool crepe dresses and suits _ which showed off oversized pockets.
Marni's palette was black, tobacco, yellow and red, often contrasted pastels. Castiglioni paired, for example, a red belted coat with a dramatic cape effect with the palest blue cropped pants.
Castiglioni's silhouette was offbeat. Jackets flared slightly over cropped pants and knee-length skirts.
She created a fur shawl that finishes in wool crepe, giving the impression of a belted fur-collared coat from the front but in reality was completely open in the back. Asian-inspired tops and pants in matching prints suggested both comfort and disciplined construction.
For shoes, Marni offers Mary Jane sandals on flat platforms or thick high heels, often in gold. All the outfits were worn with white tights, and models' long straight hair framed the face.
AQUILANO AND RIMONDI
The Baroque hall replete with gilded accents, tapestries and a frescoed ceiling hinted at the richness to come.
Bejeweled and regal, Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi womenswear recalled the royal courts of centuries past with an emphasis on gold-laced brocade and iridescent velvet.
The pair stayed close to their architectural style, building their dresses and tops out of panels in a sort of triptych _ back, front and sides _ that allowed them to mix textiles and colors.
The tops often resembled bustiers, and finished in short bubble skirts.
Here, as elsewhere on the Milan runways, the slim cropped pant was a mainstay, paired with swing coats with large shoulders, or double-breasted knee-length jackets, for a contrasting silhouette.
Fittingly, their color palette bears the name of jewels: ruby, emerald, sapphire, along with citrine, topaz and turquoise.
The pair let their imaginations run wild when it came to decorating the collection.
Tiny wisps of feathers covered a cocktail dress with sequined flowers _ everything in black. Stiff golden bows graced the back of a coat, the sides of a dress. Beaded Byzantine crosses ran down the sides of a short dress.
The shoes also reflected the level of detail the designers put in. Velvet pumps and knee boots had large bows on the back, while brocade booties had velvet tips and silk ribbons.
The queen of cashmere, Laura Biagiotti, looks to the East next winter with fur and gold embroidery embellishing her classic woolen styles.
The runway was carpeted in shimmering bronze, to emphasize the eastern feel of the womenswear winter 2013 collection.
Gilded capes, fur vests, and kaftan gowns appeared throughout the show, and the silk prints replicating the mosaic floors of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice confirmed the Byzantine inspiration.
Intricate pleating and ruching for tops and evening gowns gave increased value to the opulent styles, as did the heavy beading and gilded embroidery, even when the base was a simple knit dress.
The enriching of basic styles with embroidery, stitching, beading and sequining is one of the most popular trends for next winter.