Alberta Ferretti was clearly impressed by Joe Wright’s take on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, so much so that for Autumn/Winter 2013 she cast aside her floaty mermaid frocks and ethereal caviar beading in favour of a regal collection packed with plenty of pomp and ceremony. Her girls appeared as dainty Russian dolls clad in short lace frocks, mini-crinis, fitted velvet jackets and glittering flats. There was an air of Victorian romanticism and majesty that made them look like youthful, perfect princesses, trussed up in finery by their proud parents. Inaccessible beauty seemed to be the theme, right from the sweeping evening gowns to the exquisite embellishment on fitted shift dresses. The palette was rich and opulent, opening with strict monochrome and moving into royal blue, bishop purple and blood red.
Military notes gave the collection punch. Each look came accessorised with swinging earrings that resembled Soviet medals. Jackets continued the theme, with notable beauties including a blue embroidered frock coat with scarlet piping. There was a coolness and relevance to this collection that has been missing from some of Ferretti’s latest, more insipid, work. She seemed to be channelling that same formula of prim prettiness with an edge that has proved so successful for Valentino’s new duo. Her cocktail dresses in particular were incredibly covetable. A black velvet frock with a fitted waist and sheer sleeves and back would be a smash on the red carpet.
Milan is the only fashion city that still fetishises girly, princess dressing. Nowhere else are so many cocktail dresses, beaded gowns and sumptuous furs shown. At its worst it can seem to be the city that caters for spoilt young brats and tasteless trophy wives. But at its best it can be a breathtakingly beautiful reminder of the power of traditional femininity. Ferretti’s nod to opulent bourgeois dressing from days gone by was an unexpected and refreshing hit.