Those dramatically peaked shoulders that were everywhere last season have, well, peaked. While fashion editors in the front row are sporting the Ming the Merciless look now, in accordance with the season's trends, the catwalks for spring had nary a shoulder pad to be seen, instead relying on the natural curve created by a raglan sleeve cut in stiff, nubby fabric. This resolutely retro shape was used on almost every catwalk, from the chic (Carolina Herrera) to the innovative (Prada). Careful attention to the shoulder width is required here, and when done badly the result can be clumsy and blockish, but the perfect proportions were to be found in the shift dresses of Giambattista Valli.
It's as if the sun has finally come out to illuminate catwalks drenched in the muddy, dark hues of autumn and the recessionary gloom of previous seasons. The punch of neon shades and bright, vibrant hues was a wake-up call at Prada and Jil Sander in Milan while Dior's powdery yellow, violet and blue evening frocks had the tropical South Pacific at their heart. Even among the pale, neutral colours at the likes of Celine there were bright accents in the belts that pepped up otherwise-sober outfits. For the more timid, accessories such as the rainbow-hued bags and shoes of Dior or Loewe are an easy way to introduce colour into your wardrobe.
Adopting a poker face and a robotic walk, hair pulled back into a smooth ponytail, models sported crisp minimalism at Pheobe Philo at Celine, Raf Simons at Jil Sander and Hannah McGibbon at Chloé, to name only the leading proponents of the look. Fabrics were so starched and white they looked like paper, leather was virtually moulded to the body, details were kept as simple as a fold on a shirt sleeve or an upstanding collar, and colours were either neutral, denim or harshly bright. Leave your sense of fun at the door for this approach: it's ultra-stylish and highly sophisticated but requires total commitment - especially when it comes to keeping those whites clean.
With just the inkling of a new silhouette coming through here, the designers continued to concentrate on the natural waist, but most of them also toyed with the dropped waist of a flapper dress. Pretty, girlish minidresses had straight top halves and ruffled skirts and came in delicately coloured silks and oversized lace at Vionnet, Colette Dinnigan and Chanel. The more curvy of figure would be wise to approach this shape with caution, though, because without that accentuated waist it can look solid: instead, go for the cut found in some of the evening gowns at Dior and Rochas, which draped languidly around the torso and flared out at the hips.
After a few incursions, mainly in the form of jumpsuits, the wide trouser is finally, fully reinstated as a wardrobe staple. Worn over soaring heels, palazzo pants appeared in fluid patterned silks at John Galliano, indigo denim and linen at Derek Lam, Celine and Dior, and as slouchy cream and white hipsters at Celine. That lower rise and waistline is important, making this a less overtly body-conscious garment - and a lot more comfortable for everyday wear. Wide trousers also appeared cropped as culottes and pegged in, like super-sized harem pants. You're aiming less for MC Hammer and more for Talitha Getty and luckily slender Capri pants still have a place, too.
For those still fighting against the block colours and flat shapes of minimalism, pattern was to be found in fluid floral prints, abstract brushstrokes in pastel shades and the sinuous lines of Japanese woodblocks. Dries Van Noten, usually an advocate of ethnic prints and patterns, pared things back with a simple orchid on a dip-dye background, but Karl Lagerfeld broke up the traditional black and white at Chanel with colourful, floral chiffon-layered dresses and silk blouses. Christopher Kane, John Galliano and Antonio Marras at Kenzo all showed a multitude of Oriental prints, from cherry blossom silks to kimono patterns, that were pleasingly elaborate.