MILAN (Reuters) - Creating opera-inspired dresses and glittering coats, Italian designers have greeted the global economic downturn with collections that stand out and sparkle.
Fashion theory may state that when times get tough, hemlines drop but several top names at Milan's autumn/winter 2009/2010 catwalk shows have defied this, slashing skirts and dresses mid-thigh and making them glisten.
The doyen of Italian fashion, Giorgio Armani, looked to update 1980s fashion with glossy fabrics and shiny black caps and long gloves at his womenswear show Friday.
He studded little black dresses with diamante ornaments at the front or on the side, and put sparkly beading all over longer evening gowns. Boots were also embroidered.
The collection for his second line, Emporio Armani, shown on Thursday, also had short skirts, with jewelry that hung around the hip or on jackets.
He also dressed models in tights and sparkly socks.
"I need to see an elegant woman walking around," Armani told reporters after the Emporio Armani run, calling it "an optimistic catwalk show."
Italian designer duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana took inspiration from the "fascinating world of theater ... from the spectacular costumes to the plush gowns worn by the ladies who lunch" for their D&G line, paying homage to opera singer Maria Callas.
Velvet bustier dresses had very short puffball skirts, encrusted with colourful precious stones.
T-shirts were printed with Callas's face or the programs of operas she performed, also on the front of corset evening dresses that had tapestry-printed chiffon skirts.
Dolce and Gabbana, known for using gold in their designs, tied belts that looked like theater curtain cords around waists and put the tassel in models' hair. They finished the look with fur capes and high heels, also encrusted with stones.
"It seems quite opulent, certainly if you judge by D&G ... (Their collection) struck me as very lavish, very romantic and it didn't appear that they were reining in on their creativity or scaling down their production at all," Hilary Alexander, fashion director of London's Daily Telegraph newspaper, said.
"(Both Armani collections) were on the deluxe, luxury side, and very sexy."
At Gianfranco Ferre, also one of Italy's best-known fashion lines, parts of dresses and coats were covered in sparkly paillettes, and waists were defined with a jewel-encrusted belt.
Platform shoes had a gold-like contrast base.
At Alberta Ferretti, models wore silver and dark gold colored dresses, as well as embroidered black outfits and dangly, sparkly earrings.
Designer Valeria Marini put out gold and colorful short dresses and sequined trousers, topped with capes embroidered with palettes for her collection.
"Short skirts are meant to be around when there's boom times so there's a contraction going on," Alexander said.
"I think in many ways, sometimes when you have a tight money situation, it often sparks off even greater creativity, because if you want to survive you've got to be really good."
Just under 80 fashion houses send their models down the catwalk during the Milan shows, which began Wednesday and end next week.
Editing by Charles Dick