"We're so pretty ..." spat the Sex Pistols. And for women who don't want to waft around looking like a milkmaid or a little girl in her best party frock, a good dose of old-fashioned anarchic posturing and bad behaviour is absolutely essential. The spring/summer '97 collections in Milan, while they verged at times on Violet Elizabeth Bott, were worn with all the naughty rebelliousness of Just William. Bad girls don't wear black leather any more; as from next spring, the Italian designers will have them wearing more chintz and frills than a Stepford Wife.
Designers in both Milan and London seem to think that women want nothing to wear but a wisp of chiffon between them and their modesty. Prada, the label that is supposed to address the needs of intelligent women and has become the status label of the decade, set the tone at the beginning of the week, with transparent, gauzy shirts, and dresses in fine voile and chiffon. All very pretty until you slip it over a less- than-perfect body with cellulite dimples and your favourite, boil-washed M&S knickers.
Transparency was the overriding trend at the Milan collections. At Dolce e Gabbana, the designers continued along the same lines as their autumn/winter collection with chintzy English florals and, of course, sexy Italian corsetry. Instead of this season's heavy brocades, the dresses positively floated. At least Dolce e Gabbana offered a solution to what to wear under sheer chiffon: sturdy bras and corsets like your granny wore.
The Queen Mother is one granny who would never parade her underwear in public, but her wardrobe was the inspiration for Gianni Versace, who cited his ideal customer as someone who loves matching "extravagant slingbacks and a straw bag with a Queen Mother-style overcoat." Fashion works in mysterious ways.
Versace's Lolitas stomped down the catwalk in pretty dresses with gentle frills, while at Istante, his younger line, there were thigh-high baby doll dresses with babyish frill fronts, and saucy apron dresses intended to be worn anywhere but the kitchen.
The queen of girlie dressing is Anna Molinari, the Italian designer and mamma who thinks women should dress like women. Signora Molinari is as curvaceous as Sophia Loren and likes to wear tight little cardigans unbuttoned over her full cleavage. But she is a tough cookie and, although she dresses like a sex kitten, she undoubtedly wears the trousers, along with her chain-smoking daughter, Rosella, who works with her. Both collections focused on the Lolita complex with rose-print dresses to be worn by hard-living, independent, good-time girls - the bratty, female equivalent of the lads who read Loaded.
As far from the aggressive raunchiness of the Molinari world as can be is Jil Sander, the German designer who makes luxurious but minimal clothes. Sander's take on the see-through, knicker- baring dresses of the season included ultra-fine knit jerseys, and a billowing, double-layered, coral-pink-over-lilac chiffon dress that was light and weightless without being overtly transparent.
Sander is a classicist. She alludes to trends without slavishly following. The clothes she has been designing since the Seventies are now absolutely of the moment. Likewise Missoni, the family business that has been producing luxury knitwear for more than 40 years. Their show, - with knitwear so fine you could see through it, watery-coloured signature stripes, long, simple, fluid lines, and sequined evening wear - was the highlight of Milan. These were clothes for women rather than brats. But if you are in a petulant mood next spring, slip on some frills and chiffon over your knickers and be as bad as you can nReuse content