Perhaps as a maverick reaction to the leaden economy and the New Age asceticism that quickly has attained the sort of chic once reserved for Chanel suits, fashion's recent romance with shiny stuff has become a fever for spring -- gold fever.
On both sides of the Atlantic, Midas-minded designers have mined a mountain of golden accessories and glimmery fabrics. There are enough gilt buttons to outfit the British navy and enough golden chains -- wrapping necks, wrists and waists -- to sink it.
In Milan, Gianni Versace piled on the gold, from golden coins trimming pockets and shoes to belts of gilt starfish slung low around silk jeans. Gianfranco Ferre sent out sleek gold-mesh tops and gleaming seashell bracelets, while Karl Lagerfeld looped his spring looks for Fendi with belts and jewelry crafted from strings of golden pasta shapes. Even the lingerie look hit the gold standard with beaded bras and miniskirts at Dolce e Gabbana. Sometimes only a few karats worth of gold dust did the trick, such as the long, lustrous metallic sweaters shown over simple white silk pants at Gucci and the gold-lacquered linen suits at Krizia.
The passion for precious metal probably will never tarnish at the house of Chanel, which forged the gold chain belt into a classic. This season it decorates a white wool suit shot through with gold threads or circles the bare waist of a bikini.
Americans also joined the gold rush. In a nautical mood, Ralph Lauren dressed up his snappy sailors with golden ID chains as jewelry and trim on his new loafers, cinched their waists with golden belts of mesh, chain and even rope with toggle clasps, put gold leather loafers and platform shoes on their feet and golden beading on their jackets. Donna Karan used chain jewelry and belts of pearl and gold to offset the masculine cut of her jackets and suits, while Marc Jacobs decked out his cowgirls at Perry Ellis with pink gold chain belts and bracelets dangling heart-shaped charms.
In a practical sense, gold, against a spring season dominated by pale, neutral tones and inky navy, provides a rich, vibrant counterpoint. And against a tan -- real or otherwise -- gold always looks good.
"It just looks right," says Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president for fashion direction at Bloomingdale's, "and it hasn't been around for a while."
In a psychological sense, it may be time for gold again. Silver, cool and reserved, has had its turn. Maybe tougher times call for something warmer, richer and blatantly talismanic of wealth, well-being and good fortune.