ITALY UNDRESSES WOMEN

Italian designers are undressing women again. Many fall-winter 2000 collections in Milan this week revealed bare backs, legs and tummies, with the navel the focal point of the new nudity. There was also plenty of see-through fabric — sometimes so sheer that strategic embroidery is the only saving grace. London fashion hero Antonio Berardi, showing his first Milan collection, sent a model onto the runway wearing an all-lace jumpsuit with nothing underneath. The lace took care of the front, but the rear view was all birthday suit. Such a shock performance might be expected of an avant-garde British designer, but when Giorgio Armani is baring the navel and veiled breasts are popping up at Prada, this is serious fashion business. Even the shoes are balmy, from the mules to the leopard print stiletto-heeled boots. And once again, stockings are definitely out.

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