Designers leave dressing up to women

The week of preview showings that ended Saturday produced lots of beautiful clothes but no clear look for the fall-winter 2006-2007.

In the past, each season had a theme common to most designers from feminine and romantic to sporty and classic, to sensual and sexy the latter for many years the trademark of Italian fashion.

Donatella Versace, who Friday night showed a collection based on geometric silhouettes, puts the "blame" on the client, not the designer.

"Women today dress above all to please themselves," she said before the show, implying that no man or designer is going to tell them what to wear.

The antidote to this fashion independence is to offer lots of choice, which is what next winter is all about.

From the Prada power woman, to the Dolce and Gabbana empress, from the Gucci glam gal to the Jil Sander aesthete, the styles are as varied as decorations on a Christmas tree.

The Versace show steered clear of the elaborate fur trimming and embroidery seen repeatedly on other catwalks in the past six days, in keeping with the maison's desire to strip its look of any excess.

The daytime styles included A-shaped high-collared coats belted at the waist, and triangular shaped mini dresses with marked shoulder padding. The outfits were always worn with heavy black stockings.

For evening Donatella returned to what she loves best, seductive gowns in sumptuous silk, with bold slitting up the sides and down the front.

Front row guest British actress Elizabeth Hurley said she was "crazy" about the gowns, but she also summed up how women today feel about dressing.

"I love to look sexy, but I also like to be comfortable and relaxed, just wearing a pair of jeans," the actress said after the show.

The shows were closed by Roberto Cavalli, another sex symbol designer, who, untrue to character, this round showed a soft feminine collection. The backdrop for the show was a recreated sitting room in an elegant home in the Far East, to underline the luxurious mood of the collection.

These were outfits for very fancy ladies, with gold embroidered coats trimmed in chinchilla, and light chiffon gowns embellished with bird feathers and sequins. But the overall look was well-mannered with the Cavalli silhouette caressing the body, rather than grabbing it.

Despite the lack of a single bold fashion message, recurring themes and trends did emerge during the fashion week.

Anglomania was rampant, with many designers offering fashionable riding styles, skirts and dresses in plaids or tweeds, cable knit cardigans and woolen stockings.

Fur trimming too showed up in almost every collection, for hemlines, cuffs, collars and hats. In some cases fur was used as decoration on a pocket or down the back of a coat. By contrast there were fewer fur coats and jackets than in recent seasons.

Hoods popped up everywhere on jackets, coats, sweaters and even dresses.

Knitwear, ignored in recent years, made a big comeback.

Dresses are the favorite winter look. The few times trousers appear they are either pencil slim or very wide with generous cuff. Hemlines are no longer an issue and can go up and down in the same collection. Eveningwear is soft and richly embroidered.

The most seen silhouette is belted at the waist either with a slim belt or one as wide as a cummerbund. The raised or empire waistline makes a comeback.

Boots, especially the horsey kind, continue to be popular. In general designers have lowered the heel and made it thicker, although platforms and stilettos are still "in."

The winter palette favors black and gray with flurries of white, and dashes of autumn red green and brown.

If it is true that gentlemen prefer blondes, then there is good news for them coming off the winter catwalk. Almost every designer showing this past week favored blond, long haired models, for their presentations.

After Paris, London and Milan, the fashion baton passes to Paris where the ready to wear preview shows open Sunday, reports AP.

O.Ch.