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Barely There

Designers' Younger, Edgier Lines Go for the Glam With Wispy Fabrics, Daring Slits and Brazen Bustiers


MILAN — At a moment when a navy Gap dress and a black DKNY beret may be the most sexually charged items of clothing in the world, you'd think designers would forgo even the slightest display of lustiness for a while. But not in Europe, where la dolce vita applies to politics as much as to fashion. Forget those aging baby boomer looks that have dominated runways for the last few seasons--all those long pleated skirts, those softly draped tops, those complexion-friendly shades of gray. For spring, things are as in your face as one of the sheer, bodice-heaving, thong-baring corset dresses that Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana presented here over the weekend.

Admittedly, the opening acts of Milan's spring '99 ready-to-wear extravaganza--approximately 70 designers who'll debut perhaps 7,000 outfits before buyers and press decamp to Paris next week--lean heavily toward designers' younger, edgier, lower-priced lines, among them D&G by Dolce & Gabbana, Donatella Versace's Versus collection, Miuccia Prada's Miu Miu label and Philosophy from Alberta Ferretti. But demographics and daring aside, there's no mistaking the hormones raging behind these styles, from D&G's white handkerchief-embroidered slipdresses worn over black bra and briefs to Miu Miu's mini-milkmaid blouses to Romeo Gigli's champagne-colored plastic wrap dresses, so tightly bound that the models looked as if they'd stepped out in Saran Wrap.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday October 9, 1998 Home Edition Life & Style Part E Page 2 View Desk 3 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Claudia Schiffer--A story in Wednesday's Life & Style incorrectly characterized model Claudia Schiffer's career plans. According to a spokesperson, Schiffer said Wednesday that she is not thinking about retiring.
"This misinterpretation may have come from the fact that I recently said I only do runway shows for special events. . . . So much of my time is spent doing fashion magazines, advertising campaigns, TV commercials, etc., that working the fashion shows has become simply impossible," Schiffer said in a statement.

If fashion, like politics, seems to have lost its compass a bit these days, consider the turmoil of just the last week--the fashion turmoil, that is. First, fashion darling Isaac Mizrahi, who engendered more headlines than profits, announced he was shuttering his 11-year-old company after longtime backer Chanel Inc. pulled the money plug.

In a second assault on fashion's celebrity machine, supermodel Claudia Schiffer announced she would hang it up after Milan, trading in her high heels, her high profile and her highly profitable life on the catwalk for more leisurely pursuits, such as designing clothes that, as she put it, models might wear (which suggests that what the rest of the pack is designing are clothes real women might wear).


Still, for pure chaos, perhaps nothing topped last week's suggestion that in 2000 the Italians might try to leapfrog ahead of the New York collections. Again. Technically, said Mario Boselli, vice president of the Camera Nazionale Della Moda, the group that organizes the collections here, the push would satisfy store demands for ever-earlier deliveries. But it would seem hard to believe that the Italians are not just trying to tweak their Seventh Avenue counterparts.

The New York market split this fall from its lineup in the London-Milan-Paris-New York fashion circuit, when a contingent of the heaviest hitters, led by Helmut Lang, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, opted to show ahead of the Europeans. It was, they claimed, an attempt to lure buyers into buying earlier. Or maybe it was more an excuse to quell age-old charges of copy-catting. Whatever the reason, it has left New York bookending the rest of the fashion world. Now, to have the Italians--and presumably, the French--leapfrog the leapfroggers would not simply exacerbate old rivalries, it could also dissolve both sides of the Atlantic into one never-ending fashion show.


If the early trends are any indication--and the likelihood is they'll be more a ripple than the rule--there will be quite a bit of Vixen Chic out there next spring. While the fashion pack crowding into the Prada and Gucci shops along trendy Via Montenapoleone and Via San Andrea was a sea of chic gray suits and gamine twin sets this weekend, the runways were filled with the raw and the raunchy--red-hot mama clothes, Italian-style.

Among the most audacious: the draped dresses that Donatella Versace offered up at Versus--dresses with such deep slits (slash is probably a better description) that it took gossamer-thin strands of thread across chest or back to keep the clothes from fluttering off the models and onto the runway of the abandoned factory in Porta Genova where Versace showed her wares. (Only Kate Moss, who's limiting her Milan stint to the Versus and Versace shows, was spared the task of smiling through the apocalypse of dresses with minds of their own.)

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