"The press always needs a clear message," Giorgio Armani announced at the conference for the Italian media that followed his show today. So that's what he gave them, with a muted presentation that was, for him at least, tightly edited down to two distinct stories. "A woman who's free to fly but can carry her own weight, gentle but gutsy" is how Armani defined the two faces of his collection. The gutsiness was summed by city suits: jackets and shorts or wrapped skirts. The freedom to fly came through in fabrics that started off sheer and steadily insinuated themselves in ever enveloping volumes, until a final outfit that was like a billowing highwayman's cape of silk.

There are artists who rage as they age—like Picasso, for instance—but on the evidence of recent collections, Armani has adopted a much more serene attitude to the passage of time. The gentleness of the clothes today was enhanced by a palette of pale blues, grays, and pinks and delicate effects like streams of crystal tracing a watery trail across a chiffon top, or patterns that suggested faded watermarks, or blurry florals. It was distinctly ladylike, an impression that was, again, enhanced by the tousled eighties-style semi-quiffs with which each model was cursed. That same decade made an incongruous appearance when the designer sent a trio of models—his Three Graces, perhaps—down the catwalk cloaked in vast swaths of silk georgette and topped with huge square hats. They looked rather like creatures from the Tony Viramontes drawings that currently line Carla Sozzani's gallery in Corso Como. It was the kind of idiosyncratic gesture—same with the kerchiefs a number of the models ended up wearing—that underscored Armani's own enduring gutsiness.