Seventies tackiness comes unstuck

THE trouble with fashion is that it can make you feel so old. You live through a look once, then you find yourself forced to live through the re-run. You have to stop yourself muttering, 'of course, I wanted hot pink stretch jeans back in 1976' or all the hip fashion chicks living the look for the first time raise their eyes to the heavens.

Fashion has a particularly virulent case of retrofever right now. Yesterday morning, in Milan for the international spring- summer 1995 fashion shows, I was forced to relive the mistakes of my teens. Had Anna Molinari been thumbing through my Seventies snapshots? Had she raided my album collection for her hideous 'Blumarine' show?

To the strains of ''Ring My Bell', 'I Will Survive' and 'Lady Marmalade' (Voulez Vous Couchez Avec Moi . . .)out came the feather boas, the skin- tight sugary shirts, the diamante hairclips, the stilettos.

The shock was not that a collection for 1995 was such a rehash - designers do that all the time - but that it was a copycat version of such a tacky look.

The collection was reminiscent not so much of wild, cocaine-fuelled Manhattan nights, but of tawdry provincial dancing round clutch bags, revved up on cider. Shapes were tacky, with pencil skirts split to the thigh to reveal seamed black stockings and suspenders; trouser suits were worn with kipper ties.

Giorgio Armani is 60 and thus old enough to remember the original Forties dressing of which Seventies and now Nineties style are both re-runs. So it was no surprise that he steered well clear of the current retro sweeping Milan. But in his younger Emporio Armani collection yesterday afternoon everything was beige, floppy, drab and see-through. While Blumarine looked very 25-years-ago, the Emporio Armani show looked very last-year. And that, in fashion terms, is a far greater sin.

(Photograph omitted)