MILAN (AP) -- 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 emphasized 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 color for the season, along with deep reds, blues and greens. Basic black is still the winter favorite with a touch of winter white.
Hair styles tend toward the long and straight, at times pinned up or held down by a hat, while makeup 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.
Or take the little black dress, a cocktail-hour must -- until Giannini ups the ante with fetching see-through lace, leather inserts and low-cut backs and necklines.
In the constructed collection, jackets are generally small, with either a soft or well-defined shoulder. Coats are cut close to the body, except for a single mannish coat in cornflower blue with a black Astrakhan collar. Skirts are worn high for a delicate take on the waist, and the tapered and short pants are more sweet than sexy.
However, the recurrent fishnet tights complete with black seam underlined the fetching mood of the collection.
There were hints of feathers and spangles in the daytime wear, but these burst out in firework proportions for the evening. More than one dress was made up of a combination of feathers, sequins, lace and leather, fashioned in a revealing silhouette.
Along with basic black, the Gucci palette included wine purple, orange rust, moss green and a range of delicate blues.
Fabrics went from silk to soft wool and lace. Leather, a Gucci staple, appeared in everything from a suit to a T-shirt. Snakeskin, another Gucci favorite, was used not only for bags and shoes, but also for outfits.
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.
Models wore dark eye makeup and their hair severely pulled back.
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.
Miniskirts and short coats showed off leather high-heeled boots that disappeared beneath the short hemlines. But hemlines on coats, skirts and pants also were left to trail.
The collection also included youthful styles, like jumpers, culottes and bodysuits.
Three colors dominated the collection: black, burned orange and brown. Richness was expressed through the juxtaposition of materials, for example, a skirt of fur in the front and wool in the back. For variation, the design team sewed wispy strands of silver on sweaters and other pieces for a feathery effect. More formal wear, including silken suits, featured red geometric patterns from the Mila Schoen archives.
The looks were accentuated by simple bowl-shaped helmets in leather or fur, worn atop straight, long hair.
The latest Alberta Ferretti winter collection could be labeled 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.
A simple sheath takes on yesteryear allures when it comes in rich velvet and prominent jeweled embroidery. On the other hand a suit with hoop skirt and peplum jacket, is updated by making the skirt a little narrower and the jacket smaller. Eveningwear keeps old-age accents, but is cut in a contemporary long and slim style. Fancy fur wraps are reversible with a cozy felt lining, which in a minute can turn posh into pedestrian.
The color palette for next winter is mainly black or white, joined by deep shades of red, green, and blue. Fabrics range from sumptuous velvet and satin to country tweeds.
Footwear comes in dainty gold embroidered slippers and velvet pumps with a discreet heel.
The models wore little makeup, and their hair was gathered in a demure French twist.
Heavy pendant earrings in the shape of a cross of honor completed the no-nonsense look.
"Every woman deserves one of those," Alberta Ferretti said before the show.