In the days preceding Sunday's Oscar night, Italian designers perfected their homage to old-school Hollywood glamour at Milan Fashion Week.
The autumn collections of Prada, Gucci and Bottega Veneta autumn collections contained references to the sinister, shadowy world of film noir and the mysterious heroines of Raymond Chandler and Alfred Hitchcock.
The retro, 1940s to 1950s ladylike silhouette that was recently on the catwalk in Paris had a strong influence in Italy, although the sensibility has never been far from the aesthetic of Miuccia Prada and Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta. However, like Frida Giannini at Gucci, they incorporated a slightly vampish “raw elegance”, as Miuccia Prada put it, in their new collections.
At Prada, an ominous backdrop, the models' wet hair, the 1950s-style fitted coats with big skirts and gauntlet cuffs and the dishevelled bodices on dresses had more than a hint of Hitchcockian drama about them. There was a similarly cinematic air of power and sensuality in the Gucci collection. The strong shoulder lines, linear pencil skirt silhouettes and seamed stockings - played out in python, lizard skin and brocade - segued into gorgeous femme fatale evening gowns of fishnet, silk and leather, embellished with feathers. It was all very lush and decadent.
The mood became dark and sultry at Bottega Veneta, where models with Rita Hayworth hairdos wore 1940s-style broad-shouldered black wool coats with sculpted folds and cocktail dresses trimmed with raffia.
Overall, there was serenity and sobriety in the Milan collections. Maybe it is a reflection of the political and fiscal uncertainty in Italy; silhouettes were primly covered up.
The look was almost Puritan at Jil Sander, where dark wool coats contained a flash of gold or skirts offered a glimpse of bright colour. Similarly at Marni, the austere colours and sturdy wools would have looked solemn but for the soft fur trims and a charming, whimsical woodland print.
As sleet and snow fell heavily across Milan, many audience members must have coveted the elegant Wellington boots some of the models wore. This was not the weather for the fashion crowd to flaunt their spring fashion purchases for the benefit of the street-fashion paparazzi. At times it felt as though the weather reflected the mood on the catwalk.
Nevertheless, Dolce & Gabbana and Pucci were upbeat. Peter Dundas at Pucci offered an alternative to the retro 1940s look with the label's classic 1960s Otto print on silk blouses and tiny tunic dresses, which looked carefree and sexy, while his kilt-cut winter shorts offered an alternative to the tuxedo pant in warmer climes. Dolce & Gabbana's A-line tunics and dresses, meanwhile, were inspired by opulent Byzantine gilded mosaics.
Perhaps triggered by the Metropolitan Museum of Art's forthcoming punk fashion exhibition in New York, Missoni, Roberto Cavalli and Donatella Versace contained a subversive undercurrent to the ladylike mood, with Missoni focusing on sheer knitwear and Cavalli covering dresses with studs to give his collection an edgy elegance. Versace, however, will forever be associated with the look after putting Elizabeth Hurley in the infamous safety pin dress for a film premiere in 1994. The label's skintight vinyl dresses trimmed with spikes, nails and bolts would cause no less of a stir today for a movie star on the red carpet, but it's unlikely they will get as far as the Oscars.