Milan looks to fall

March 06, 1991|By N.Y. Times News Service

MILAN, Italy -- The neat nosegays, rather than elaborate flowering plants, that accompanied invitations to the fall and winter ready-to-wear shows here this week were a sign of the times: Ostentation is out. Extravagant nightly entertainment is a thing of the past, and the clothes, designed under the shadow of war, are more soothing than shocking. Hemlines are coming down, albeit gradually, a sobering fact in itself.

Ottavio and Rosita Missoni, the knitwear specialists who were among the designers who successfully campaigned 15 years ago for this city to become a fashion center, introduced their collection in their showroom, bypassing the mammoth fair where most shows take place.

The high spot of the Missoni collection was the knitted coats, usually reversible. The coats had the muted look of heathery tweeds or were pieced and quilted as intricately as mosaics. They topped pleated skirts and overblouses in patterns that used typical Missoni circle, zigzag an stripe motifs.

Hems usually stopped a few inches above the knee, but some swingy metallic tent dresses grazed the knees. They looked elegant and comfortable.

For years, Keith Varty and Alan Cleaver seemed to have a hammerlock hold on young designs here with their Byblos collection. And now look what's happened. Their clients are growing up.

The designers now show neat gray wool suits with jackets flaring over pleated skirts for women of any age to wear to work. And they made a serious attempt at making longer skirts acceptable. Their calf-length styles are pleated in sharp shades like purple, orange and hot pink and they don't look dowdy. The designers keep the young franchise, however, with lots of shorts under swingy coats. Despite the maturity of some of the designs, the collection is lively and springy.

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