Fashion: Milan Diary: Dressing to iron is rather smooth

MILAN Fashion Week, and shopping frenzy is in the air. British designers are known for their challenging ideas, but in Milan all of that goes right out of the window. Ideas are replaced by shopping lists, as the fashion press concentrate on how they can update their wardrobes.

At Prada, however, Miuccia came over all intellectual with her collection for autumn/winter '98, entitled "Cut-Out". "Emotion of THE NEW DRESS is the physical pleasure of wearing THE CHANGE," read the show notes.

"IRONING AS DECORATION," they declared. Editors looked at each other in bafflement. Perhaps we had missed something in the translation, as the entire British press sat in their back-row seats, Fashion Siberia.

As the show began, it became clear that staying at home doing the ironing is about to become the hip thing. Shift dresses are meticulously folded up into a tiny square and pressed until the crease marks are razor sharp.

At last, status dressing that doesn't have to cost a penny. You can do it yourself with a touch of steam. But the clothes seemed strangely irrelevant as close-ups of the shoes were projected on to screens at each side of the catwalk. They came in the form of two-tone red and white patent leather mules, white patent 1960s pixie boots, shiny T-bar high-heeled mules and chisel toe heels became top of every fashion victim's shopping list for autumn.

If Prada is about shoes, the Italian knitwear family Missoni is most definitely about clothes. Real, wearable clothes. The ageing founders of the company, Tai and Rosita Missoni, have handed over the design reigns to their daughter, Angela, and made the label credible after long years in business by employing Mario Testino - otherwise known as Super Mario - to soup up the advertising.

The clothes were both up-to-the-minute and classically wearable. There were the signature stripy tops, tweedy knitted coats, and Lurex basket- weave dresses, all in rich oil-slick colours. The pleated skirt that dominated the shows in London and Milan so far was made to flatter in the form of a knife-pleated knitted wrap-around skirt that would look fabulous whatever the size of your hips. And that, surely, is worth a place on anybody's shopping list.

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