Milan fashion designers hit a theatrical note in women's winter collections previewed on the opening day of Milan Fashion Week on Wednesday.
Looks incorporated costume touches like high, ruffled necks, long bell sleeves and trailing hemlines. There were also feathery wisps, intricate embroidery and dramatic footwear, particularly thigh-high boots.
The designers emphasised luxury over everyday appeal, with leather and fur as well as fabrics like velvet, satin and chiffon that call for an occasion.
Burnt orange is emerging as a standout colour for the season, along with deep reds, blues and greens. Basic black is still the winter favourite with a touch of winter white.
Hairstyles tend towards the long and straight, at times pinned up or held down by a hat, while make-up accentuates the eyes.
Such luxury brands as Prada, Versace, Armani, Bottega Veneta, Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi are among the 70 Milan designers readying their wears for the six days of preview shows for fall-winter 2013-2014.
The Gucci woman next winter is a playful mixture of demure and daring.
"She seduces with her dangerous femininity," writes creative director Frida Giannini in her show notes.
For example, while the season's pencil skirt has a proper several-inches-below-the-knee hemline, the slits up the front and back are not necessarily ladylike.
Footwear was either booties, boots or sandals, all with a sharp and sexy high heel. The latest bag is structured with a luggage lock, and the traditional bamboo handle.
Mila Schoen has turned to a new team of international designers to usher in a new era for the label.
The first collection, cold-weather clothes for next year, had an ingénue appeal, with flouncy and feminine looks.
The design team created volumes with ruffles and blousy effects that projected an easy-to-sketch silhouette. Fur-and-wool coats had tiered ruffle necks. Sheer black spandex turtlenecks finished with a flourish with long, bell-shaped ruffles that start at the elbow. Ample skirts, short and long alike, promised sashay to any walk.
The latest Alberta Ferretti winter collection could be labelled minimal Victorian.
There were many of the elements of 19th century fashion, from the high collars, wide skirts, rich fabrics and austere embroidery, but on a paired-down silhouette.
Footwear comes in dainty gold embroidered slippers and velvet pumps with a discreet heel.
"Every woman deserves one of those," Alberta Ferretti said before the show.