Shapeless garment finds new life on Milan runway

Sack dress which thrilled women and dismayed men in the 1950s comes back.

Decades later, the shapeless garment has found a new life on the Milan runway, showing up in many of the collections being previewed for the Spring-Summer 2008: sweet and floral at D&G, chic and unfussy at Bottega Veneta, minimalist at Jil Sander, multicolored at Missoni, romantic at Cavalli and fashioned in shiny patent-leather at Marni.

At Gucci on Wednesday evening, the contemporary chemise - much shorter than its forerunner - stole the show.

"I wanted to create a cool ambivalent style, mixing the 1950s with the ease and attitude of rock," Gucci designer Frida Giannini said in her show notes.

At times, the Gucci sack is straight up and down in bold graphic prints. At other times it flares out at the knee in a burst of fabric. For evening, the dress is either draped in the back and flat in front, creating a tortoise shell effect, or puffy and rounded.

Almost always the style is strapless.

In general, the Gucci show had a couture feel to it, reminiscent of the 1950s but not retro. Everything was put together with care, from the checkered pantsuits with their tiny jackets and slim trousers to the pleats on a full skirt. The care was also evident in the mother of pearl and crystal detailing and the taffeta evening gowns in bold black and yellow prints.

A wide suede belt with the signature Gucci stirrup tightly cinched the waist. Giannini contemporized this 1950s look by using the belt to adorn her evening wear.

Whereas the late actress Audrey Hepburn would have found many outfits to her liking on her way to "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the footwear is definitely about today's world. Platform sandals with extra wide straps - a look which has shown up in many of the current shows - shared the runway with high-heeled oxfords in glistening gold, meant for gals who don't have time to look back.

During the show, Giannini also launched her first women's fragrance, "Gucci by Gucci," previewing a TV commercial for the perfume that was directed by David Lynch.

Midway through the Milan fashion week, certain trends come into focus for next year's warmer weather.

In general, the look speaks of an updated, uptown girl. It's a season of dresses and full skirts, prints and bold colors. Styles are romantic rather than sexy, with tiny jackets and a myriad of pretty tops in delicate fabrics.

The belt plays a central role cinching tiny waists or creating an empire waistline. Jeanswear is out, as are pants and Bermuda shorts.

Most collections are not divided into night and day, offering a 24-hour wardrobe for the globe-trotting client.

Where designers let their imagination run wild is in the footwear, which like jewelry in past fashion decades defines a mood and personalizes an outfit.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova