After a month of shows, I feel comfortable declaring that there is something quite casual happening for spring. It's not about athletic casual -- although that idea hasn't disappeared altogether -- but instead about applying humble fabrics and silhouettes to fancy wares. Denim in particular has played a significant role on the runway, and most notably in collections where it mightn't have belonged in the past.
Valentino Creative Directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, who have a distinctive way of modernizing formal dressing, showed multiple looks in what looked like denim, including an oversize Peter Pan collar jacket, wide-leg cropped flares and high-waisted shorts. Often worn with flat sandals, these were utilitarian clothes re-imagined for leisure wear. Chiuri and Piccioli were specifically thinking about the Grand Tour, a trip 18-century male British students would take through Europe after graduating from university, so the looks were meant to coincide with a travel itinerary through Italy. (For instance, seaside-inspired gowns were embroidered with starfish and seashells.) But the initial reference point only served as a guide, not a dictation. The big takeaway was that frilly, feminine dresses -- ruffles and all -- don't need to be sickly sweet. A series of pastel-rainbow looks were unapologetically pretty, which also made them unexpectedly cool. Which is sort of Valentino's M.O. these days.