No wonder Dolce & Gabbana are in love with Elsa Schiaparelli for Fall. She was an original proponent of the ballooning shoulder (the fashion story of the season), worked her surrealist glamour through tough and weird times, and was an Italian to boot. In an edgy moment, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana used her example to defy all fashion nervousness and lay on a sumptuous show whose production values gave no quarter to the idea that cutbacks and timidity should be the order of the day. Quite the opposite, in fact. The front row was positively teeming with A-listers: Scarlett Johansson, Kate Hudson, Naomi Watts, Freida Pinto, Eva Mendes, and others who had all flown in to view the clothes, and then take in the Extreme Beauty in Vogue exhibition opening that the designers have underwritten at the Palazzo della Ragione.
The thirties and forties references played through the displaced gloves used as headpieces and scarves, the shell-shaped buttons, the clunky wartime suede platform wedges, the homages to Schiap's shocking pink, and, of course, those huge, puffed-up leg-of-mutton sleeves, rising up in some cases to earlobe level. The spending on luxe materials and a cinematic level of beauty never ceased. Fox, dyed goat hair, mink, and rich brocades were worked into narrow-waisted silhouettes, alternating—though not much—with bell-shaped skirts.
It might have been a one-message show, but as is always the case with these superconfident designers, there was never any surrender of house identity. Dolce & Gabbana-isms were wittily reiterated when their signature Sicilian corseted and see-through lingerie dresses reappeared, Schiap-shaped, counterpointed by black tuxedo suits. Finally, their traditional ending parade of exaggerated crinolines shifted the look completely to their own territory, with Monroe photo prints spreading over the skirts. Times may be tough, but these are two guys who are not about to give an inch on what they believe in.