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Nine ways to dress like an elegant Italian woman now – according to Milan Fashion Week

Milan
Milan

Milan’s autumn/winter 2024 shows turned out to be an exceptionally wearable set of collections. Milan’s never been as adventurous/outrageous as Paris. Bourgeois conformity is in its soul. But after a post-pandemic spending splurge (me neither, but the bounce back at many big brands suggest lots and lots of us went on shopping frenzies), reality has bitten. Spending is down at many brands and that tends to focus the mind on tactile, luxurious-feeling fabrics and wearable clothes that score high on special details and longevity.

While there are a number of investment items to note – a new skirt shape, thigh-high or riding boots and some shifts in colour – a lot of what caught the eye amounted to styling ideas, any one of which will update your existing looks. Read on…

Boost your beige

Giorgio Armani Autumn/Winter 2024
Giorgio Armani Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty
Loro Piana Fall Winter 2024-2025
Loro Piana

Milan’s love of taupe isn’t about to dissipate any time soon. Every shade, from camel to pale biscuit, has been interrogated recently by most designers  as they tune into “quiet luxury”. But Northern Italians have always loved this particular slice of the spectrum. Max Mara has built an entire brand on the concept of “Camelandia”. But in acknowledgment that some complexions can look alarmingly washed-out with these pale hues, designers have drizzled some additional colour into the mix.

Most popular is a mid-blue which looks particularly good with all shades of cream and brown. Gucci’s new designer Sabato De Sarno loves it so much, he accessorised it with nothing other than taupe skin. Et voilà, wearing the ultra-rich set’s favourite neutral no longer has to make you look jaundiced. Progress people, progress.

Brioni
Brioni
La Double J
La Double J

Skirts with a sting in the tail

Autumn/Winter 2024
Ferragamo Autumn/Winter 2024 - Wireimage

What you need to know: mini skirts are back on the agenda. But fear not  there’s plenty of alternative choice. Midis and maxis abound and instead of being straight up and down, some now have (subtle) mermaid tails to the side or pleat inserts. It might sound fussy but in the hands of Maximilian Davis, Ferragamo’s British designer, it isn’t. But it is flattering.

The Knitted Jacket

Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini Autumn/Winter 2024
Philosophy by Lorenzo Serafini Autumn/Winter 2024 - Getty

Is it a jacket or a cardigan? It’s both – the cosiness of one, the smartness of the other. We’re talking winter, remember, and while a blazer might seem like a year-round investment,  many of us furlough ours once coat-wearing weather has us in its chilly grip. As designers turn their attention to the cardigan-jacket, you can be sure it will become more and more refined and streamlined. In  Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini’s sophisticated Hitchcock heroine-inspired collection, the eponymous Serafini teamed it with same coloured trousers in a different fabric: a nice play on textures that looks very smart and relaxed.

One other take out? The sculpted brooch-pin is back. Add one to an existing knit to elevate it.

Polo necks and tall boots

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Fendi Autumn/Winter 2024 - AP

Let it not be said that Milanese fashion is an exclusive, rich-members-only club. You could get by henceforth by adding some long boots to everything and layering a polo neck under everything – dresses, shirts, tank tops, coats, bustiers – and look thoroughly up-to-date. Excellent coverage for necks and warm, polo necks also lessen the urgency for a scarf, which is sad if you love scarves, but good if you tend to leave them everywhere. This is really a win-win situation.

Be Bold With Brights

Autumn/Winter 2024
Moschino Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty
Prada Autumn/Winter 2024
Prada Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty

What with beige and monochrome staging a fashion take over recently, bright colours have acquired something of an unsophisticated reputation (blame it partly on Barbie; it killed pink for a while). But if Miuccia Prada says purple and red, chartreuse and bubble-gum pink are OK together, such is her power and influence the rest of the industry will fall in line. And like her, they’ll wear them with black, a combination that has previously been considered very 1980s, and not in a good way (not that there’s much from the 80s that can be construed in a “good way”) .

Meanwhile, Adrian Appiolaza, who was only appointed creative director of Moschino in January, pulled together an impressively assured collection which managed to incorporate the jokey elements, the smiley faces, peace symbols and colour that are integral to this label, but with an added everyday elegance. That tufty daffodil-yellow sweater is a stand out.

One other take out: Miuccia’s 74 and still wielding huge clout in this supposedly youth fixated world. Way to go.

Not just about the blazer. Meet your new utility jacket

Bruno Cucinelli
Bruno Cucinelli

A blazer will never, ever go out of style. Milan was full of them. But for your consideration, here are some other suggestions: a cropped chore jacket. At Loro Piana, a label that knows not what recession means, thanks to its annointment in Succession as the ultra-rich person’s fave if-you-know-you-know label, the sleeveless combat jacket just reached its apotheosis.

Meanwhile, Brunello Cucinelli is another master of making the most luxurious pieces look relaxed and understated to the naked eye.  This is where David Beckham goes when he wants to be peak Cotswolds shepherd. It’s so expensive that Carrie Bradshaw, now a very wealthy if not particularly merry widow, alluded to the prices in awe in an episode of And Just like... Suffice this is the chore jacket to set your bench mark: pale, natural fibres and a cut that means you could wear it day and night and the overdressed brigade will gnash their teeth and ponder why it looks so good.

Take out: interesting that these ultra-luxe labels are embracing utility. Is that the new rich person’s flex?

The Ever Versatile Shirt

Tods Autumn/Winter 2024
Tods Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty

Good cotton shirts have become one of those non-basic basics beloved of influencers for the multifarious styling options. Wear them over tanks, over skinny rib jumpers, under dungarees, strapless dresses, back to front, sleeves rolled, flipped, or if you’re prepared to put up with mockery, dangling. And now.. .wear them with another shirt.

You probably won’t. But the take out is that a beautifully made-to-last, boxy masculine shirt can work well as a summer “jacket.”

Bellissima Burgundy

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Bottega Veneta Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty
No 21 Autumn/Winter 2024
No 21 Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty

Burgundy has nudged brown into second place for most popular winter hue. Some designers sent out head-to-toe shades of claret but that’s not recommended if it doesn’t suit you. It’s not easy close to the face but it’s a gorgeous accent colour – boots, gloves, bags, belts. At Bottega Veneta, Matthieu Blazy swivelled towards a more wearable approach than previously (let’s just say past collections have been more about concepts and accessories than everyday luxury). One stand out is the semi fitted dress that offsets burgundy with cream and chocolate. Beautiful.

The car coat

Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024
Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty
Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024
Gucci Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty

Sweeping coats abound in Milan – the ultimate luxury (see Alberta Ferretti’s chartreuse version below). But if you find all that fabric impractical, the answer is also here. Car coats came in all fabrics, from evening brocades to this plush dream from Gucci.

Alberta Ferretti
Alberta Ferretti Autumn/Winter 2024 - getty

Finally: accessories that make the difference

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Jimmy Choo
Valextra
Valextra

Bags and shoes are never an afterthought in Milan. After all, many of the most established houses here – Prada, Gucci, Tod’s, Bottega Veneta and Ferragamo, started in luggage, bags or footwear.

What you need to know:

  1. Glossy riding boots and waders will be all over the high street next season.

  2. Bags are squishy and ergonomic (when a brand offers three shades from the camel spectrum a la Valextra, you know you’re on planet luxury)

  3. Scarves that match coats are probably the chicest update you can make (inspired, I would hazard, by Swedish label Toteme’s run-away hit blanket stitch coat and matching scarf that has consistently sold out since its introduction in 2022). By the way, that chartreuse Ferretti coat? Another key shade for next autumn.