MILAN — _ It looks like it's going to be a short summer in 2010 – at least where hemlines are concerned.
On Thursday, the opening day of Milan fashion week of preview showings for next year's warm weather fashion, short dresses, short skirts and short shorts showed up on almost every runway.
But in this round, the cropped look is more demure than daring. Ruffles and bubble shapes replace the clinging styles that often symbolize Made in Italy label.
Even Dolce&Gabbana, best known for their sexy styles, opted for a pert cowgirl look of short ruffled chiffon skirts paired with corset tops and boots with leather fringe for their second line D&G label, which is aimed at the younger set.
Already hinted at on the winter runway, summer marks the return of the jacket, complete with its 1980's powersuit shoulder padding.
Footwear looks like it's stepping down from the platform heights of recent seasons, with a sensible heel at Prada and flat sandals at Armani.
Perhaps in an effort to combat the current grim economic mood, designers brighten up their palette, replacing staple black-and-white with colorful pink, yellow, blue and green.
Over the next five days, top Italian designers including Fendi, Ferre, Missoni, Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Versace will present their ideas for the upcoming summer. Thursday's shows included Armani, Moschino Cheap and Chic, D&G and Prada.
Giorgio Armani presented a bright and upbeat spring/summer 2010 collection, an apt response to speculation over succession at his Milan fashion house after the 75 year old designer's recent bout with hepatitis.
The normally urban Armani went for a bright summer look with cheerful houndstooth prints and youthful short styles.
The collection featured lots of loose-fitting and comfortable pieces paired with more structured looks – a bubble skirt and cropped jacket, or loose blousey tops and short pleated skirts.
Everything was short, even evening wear, which included loose shorts, or sparkly shorts under slightly shorter dresses.
Deep open V backs were ideal for showing off well-tanned backs, sometimes crisscrossed by strips of fabric.
Janet Jackson, spending the week in Milan ahead of a charity dinner she is chairing next week, made an appearance at the second show.
A well-tanned Armani, dressed completely in black, waved to the crowd after the show before disappearing backstage.
"No purchases, no sales," the designer told reporters after the show, answering speculation about succession at the fashion house after his illness.
Models with ruby red lips and pigtails wearing chiffon veils paired with silk sport shorts wandering down the corridors of a seaside Belle Epoque hotel re-created on the runway underlined the enigmatic mood of the Prada collection.
"It is quite contemporary, a little bit nostalgic and very mysterious," was how designer Miuccia Prada described her collection to reporters backstage after the much-applauded show.
On hand for one of the most sought after shows in town was tennis star Roger Federer in an impeccable gray suit and tie.
The Prada print this round is a series of photos from a 1960's beach scene complete with deck chairs, umbrellas and people in bikinis, reproduced in miniature on delicate techno fabrics. The designer uses these prints for coats cocktail sheaths, blouson tops and a myriad of shorts ranging from bikers to an ultra short version to reveal the panties underneath.
The latest Prada accessories include shoes and bags in see-through plastic. After many a season of models tottering and sometimes toppling on their ultrahigh platform shoes, the latest Prada collection sports a sensible heel.
"Platforms are dead – at least until next season," the designer said.
MOSCHINO CHEAP AND CHIC
It's clear Moschino wants its Cheap and Chic line's spring/summer 2010 women's collection to be seen through the rose-colored lenses of daisy-shaped glasses. A cardboard pair was included in each invitation to its show.
Not to disappoint, the runway was filled with daisies, dainty and bold, prints and sunglasses. Oh, and there were big summer hats with oversized daisy petals forming the brim, among the many whimsical touches in the collection, which included also one necklace featuring a true-to-size gold banana on a chain, and another with oversized chili peppers.
The colors suggested an era when television was a newfangled contraption, idealized for the transition from black-and-white to color broadcasts: bold floral patterns, alternating with that small-screen classic black and white separates, alternating with multicolor panels or stripes in shades of blue, red, orange, yellow and pink, reminiscent of early television's color stripes.
On the delicate end of the scale, a daisy print short pleated skirt was paired with a ruffle shirt accented by a thin yellow belt followed by a black-and-white striped bikini perfect for Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island. Toward the bolder end, there were pink bubble shorts with a black shirt emblazoned with the word "Peace" or a generous pink blouse, long sleeved on one arm, sleeveless on the other, with an oversized bow, worn with black shorts. Purses could be anything, clutches, long-strapped bags, totes.
Associated Press Writer Colleen Barry contributed to this report.