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Originally published Monday, September 26, 2011 at 8:14 AM

Milan fashion designers invest heavily in gold

Milan fashion designers are investing heavily in gold, despite the recent, unexpected dip in gold prices.

Associated Press

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MILAN —

Milan fashion designers are investing heavily in gold, despite the recent, unexpected dip in gold prices.

Gold lame, golden sequins, golden embroidery and golden baubles figured prominently in styles for next spring and summer during a week of Milan womeswear previews that ended Monday - as if to impart the Midas touch at a moment of economic uncertainty.

Perhaps it is not coincidental that the era most frequently evoked during Milan fashion week was the Roaring '20s, seen through its sequined and beaded drop-waisted flapper dresses. The carefree, fun decade ended with the devastating 1929 stock market crash.

The collective fashion response from Milan seemed to be: If we're all going down, let's at least look ladylike.

Styles on the Milan runways were decidedly mature, not girlish. There were proper leather handbags with handles or smart clutches.

The sandal has returned, replacing last year's practical boot, in heels or platforms. Often gilded, the sandals proved challenging to some models who stumbled on the runway, as well as to fashionistas attending the shows, who quickly adapt to even the mere whiff of a trend. Makeup was mostly natural with flashes of glitter, and hair, often teased, was pulled back.

Next summer marks the return of the pleated skirt, often with demure, knee-length hemlines. Soft cuts were set off nicely by lace, satin and chiffon fabrics - sometimes paired with heavier textures like leather and wool.

Designers didn't forego sexy looks. While keeping the skirt lengths long, they allowed women to show off their legs with deep slits or sheer fabrics requiring coordinated undergarments. Necklines plunged, shoulders were bared and backs dipped low.

The drop-waisted and no-waist dresses gave designers all the license they needed to play with beading, sequins and fringe. Embroidery was another favorite. In another nod to glamour, many trotted out cinched-at-the-waist swimsuits.

While shades for next summer were mostly muted, there were some flashes of color in bold tropical prints, animal patterns and floral designs. The bursts of hue were the surest sign that Milan fashion remains upbeat despite the gloom.

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ARMANI

"A pearl of a lady" is how designer Giorgio Armani defined his summer 2012 woman. The ultra-feminine collection is created out of fabrics that have the iridescence of a precious pearl and the lightness of a feather.

Departing from the dress and skirt look proposed by most designers in Milan, Armani favors wafer-thin trousers delicately slit in the front. He pairs them with a jacket, cut on the bias and devoid of collar and buttons, or allows them to peep out from under a skirt or dress.

Water is another theme of the collection with iridescent aquamarine and white silk for satin gowns with sequins, which sparkle on the outfits like a morning dew.

Dress hemlines range from knee to ankle, and are cut from ultra light-fabrics that caress rather than hug the body.

Mixing night and day, the designer paired his evening wear with flats, saving high heels for daytime dressing. For his finale, Armani sent out three models in identical see-through strapless evening gowns, chastely covered in a shower of raindrop sequins.

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ROBERTO CAVALLI

For Roberto Cavalli, all that glitters is gold.

Golden sequins, lame, embroidery and plating set the tone for Cavalli's decidedly sexy collection for next summer. Golden plating appeared on pleated skirts while golden sequins were seen on matching tuxedo jackets.

Dress lengths varied from above the knee to floor-length, but the designer also offered slim pants, in leather or embroidered, paired with a tuxedo or Bolero jacket.

Cavalli cut flapper dresses from light chiffon, often in light floral patterns, then added sequins to create the dropped waist, define the bodice and give weight to the pleats on the short skirt.

Pale floral fabrics contrasted nicely with sequins, lame and lace, which was mostly black.

Floor-length dresses were fashioned from sheer chiffon and lace panels. While most of his fashion colleagues chose to match undergarments for modesty, Cavalli's sheer dresses had a nude effect.

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DONATELLA VERSACE

Donatella Versace showed her second line Versus collection in the courtyard of the Versace palazzo in downtown Milan late Sunday.

The summer Versus girl is athletic and sexy, at least as viewed by Scottish designer Christopher Kane, hand-picked by Donatella to revive the once-flourishing line aimed at the younger set.

Walking down a runway designed to resemble a basketball court, the young models looked like cheerleaders in short pastel-colored frilly skirts and matching tops.

The most creative part came in the cardio zigzag prints in contrasting black and pink for sheath dresses as well as athletic tops.

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DSQUARED2

DSquared2 saluted the summer rock festival - even the muddy ones.

More than four decades after Woodstock, designing twins Dean and Dan Caten have imagined a concert tour from London to Glastonbury, with rain certainly on the radar, creating high-heel rain boots for the chic rock concert go-er.

From there, just about anything goes in Monday's easy-to-wear line.

DSquared2 included elements that have permeated this round of Milan previews, notably fringe, bare backs, one-shoulder dresses and long skirts, but in a much more casual and youthful way.

Colors were lively, yellow, orange and green. The twins fashioned shirts emblazoned with the stars-and-stripes that draped easily over denim short shorts - sometimes with pom-pon fringe. The look was completed with studded belts and leather vests with fringe. Fur wraps - one a fox - added a touch of glam.

Flannel shirts and scarves were tied around the waist, ready for evening layering when temperatures cool. What else for accessories but concert wristbands, backstage passes, headbands or brightly colored mirrored sunglasses, paired with a yellow rain slicker emblazoned "Niagara Falls."

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FERRE

Designers Stefano Citron and Federico Piaggi debuted their first collection for the Ferre fashion house after only being hired in July - and it carried the clear mark of the late Gianfranco Ferre, known in the industry as the architect for his structured look.

That meant deconstructed tops of panels fastened by a belt, cleanly cut halter-style dresses with a scarf that sweeps over the shoulder and asymmetrical blouses, half sleeveless and half long sleeve with a cutout shoulder. The pair also presented evening dresses out of raffia that had a highly textured look.

The color palate was monochromatic, including white, nude, black and purple. Shoes were gold.

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AQUILANO AND REMONDI

Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi, who were formerly at Ferre, were much in demand this week in Milan. They designed a line for Fay, and an anniversary collection for Piazza Sempione and showed their own line, Aquilano-Rimondi, which previewed Sunday night.

The look included the pretty chiffon pleated skirts and dresses that have populated the Milan runways. But the pair created also contemporary, nearly futuristic styles, of short tulip skirts with structured tops and longer pencil skirts with tops that mix beading with sheer fabrics.

The collection got its texture from brocade, jaquard and ribbed ottoman fabric. Colors were mostly pastels.

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