Don't expect any let-up in the body- conscious look for next summer. The catwalks are rife with tight little dresses, shorts and the skinniest trousers, so close-fitting that they are laced on. If you want swathes of fabric to hide in you will have to look hard to find them in Milan, although there are one or two houses that offer something a bit more discreet than a plunging neckline, bare waist or a tiny skirt, but later for that.
The sassiest shows on Saturday were from Gucci and Pucci - two names that neatly roll off the tongue together. They both produce upbeat collections that cater for different moods of the same woman. Gucci's soul is in the strong, dark and moody rock chick, while Pucci would serve her well when she wants to indulge in a more flamboyant, expansive and casually glamorous look. The Gucci mantle sits easily on the shoulders of its designer Frida Giannini. Occasionally she rustles out a bit of the old Tom Ford style, putting the spare, long, body-skimming evening dresses and little black dresses back on the catwalk, or revamping bamboo-handled handbags (originally designed in the 1940s and revived by Ford in the 1990s). However, she has updated the whole collection with jewel-like harnesses, plus metal and techno detailing on leather jackets and the dresses.
The show opened with a series of dynamic jackets, zippered pencil skirts and trousers covered in an elaborate collage of nylon and mesh inserts, strapping, and rubber and silver piping. All of which gave the collection, apart from a few ikat prints in black, grey and white, a sporty overtone. On the dresses, rubber and metal lacing presented a modern take on the corsetry trend of the London and Milan catwalks. The detailing certainly served to pull the clothes to the body and the back-laced trousers were so tight there would have been no other way of putting them on.
In his second season at Pucci, Peter Dundas (formerly of Cavalli and Ungaro) is moving the print house forward at dramatic speed. His love of leather was unleashed in a series of beautiful python Spencer jackets with whipstitching or fringing, and a bold ultramarine blue, studded suede jacket, which he teamed with shorts or slightly loosened low-slung trousers. Mixed with silky vests, the aim was separates thrown on with a casual elegance. Adding these casual elements moves the house on from its 1960s jet-set heritage, but Dundas cleverly updates the signature prints by extracting an element of the pattern and blowing it up on a large scale for a voluminous silk or chiffon dress.
The complex patterns created by the company's founder, Emilio Pucci, and his recent successor, Christian Lacroix, have been pared back with part of a print on a jersey dress either replaced with chiffon or cut out like windows onto tanned skin beneath. Body-conscious evening dresses disguised the flamboyant sunshine yellow, turquoise and ocean blue prints in gathered swathes of fabric wrapping the body, or were given full rein in billowing, feminine parachute silk dresses.
Va-va-voom (also characteristic of Versace) is but one view of Milan. There is also a quietly sophisticated side to the fashion collections. We have witnessed it already at Jil Sander. This sense of simplicity and individuality is very much part of the identity of Bottega Veneta. The designer Tomas Maier displays impeccable taste producing collections of subtle but ultra-luxurious handcrafted accessories and fashion that is the epitome of gentle feminine elegance. He was in a sporty mood this season producing cotton canvas dresses, judo jackets and trousers graphically accented with wide bands of white braid and worn with brown leather and raffia wedge shoes. There were creamy 1950s-inspired shirtwaister dresses in fresh cottons and tunics with their necklines set off-centre.
This may sound awkward but with a deep armhole one side and a bunching of fabric on the other side, the effect was very modern - and comfortable-looking. Over the years, Maier has quietly carved out a niche for Bottega Veneta with a classy, sporty and leisurely look. However, he says that "designing is a collaboration with the woman wearing our clothes. In a sense, the clothes are a 'blank' until she puts them on". How refreshingly self-effacing from a designer.