Traditional Sportswear Scores High in Milan’s Spring Preview : Longer Jackets, Bermudas and Culottes Take a Turn as Italian Designers Preview Their Offerings for Spring : Collections for ‘86 Focus Limelight on Traditional Sportswear

Times Staff Writer

We know, we know. You barely have your fall clothes in the closet, and here comes the fashion industry, introducing spring. It’s crazy that way.

But there’s a useful point to be made. When spring showings start in Milan a few days hence (soon to be followed by spring shows in London, Paris and New York), you’ll learn exactly which items in your existing wardrobe to keep around for the next sultry day. And judging by these exclusive preview photos for The Times, the answer is: most of them.

The Italians, it seems, have zeroed in on traditional American-sportswear looks--clean, lean, easy-fitting separates spiced with the kind of detail that makes them somehow seem more Milan than Malibu.

But there’s no denying the comfortably California cut of Giorgio Armani’s short, divided skirts--perfect for cycling around our town or his--and perhaps heralding a return to the good old-fashioned culotte.

Or the all-American summer-camp look of Claude Montana’s wide and narrow cotton shorts. Or the hooray-for-Hollywood 1950s look of Byblos’ tight toreador pants. And then there’s the U.S.-preppy look of Basile’s Bermuda shorts. What makes these items inimitably Italian and refreshing, of course, is the clever way that the designers put them together.


At Armani, Soprani, Krizia and Basile, super-long (middle of the thigh, in some cases) jackets with broadened shoulders are elegant top notes for longer skirts as well as for above-knee divided skirts or traditional walking shorts.

These precision-tailored tops, plus a few well-chosen accessories, lend a dignified, suit-like air to the basic sporting goods below the waist.

Giorgio Armani, for example, cinches an elongated, striped cotton jacket with a skinny belt, adds a comfortable, short culotte and tops off the whole outfit with a pith helmet. Now that’s class.

Luciano Soprani shows his classic, dark cardigan jacket with a long, khaki skirt, a summer-camp shirt, a bangle bracelet and pumps.

Some Milanese designers are still on the miniskirt train. Gianni Versace, at Mario Valentino, does wrap versions, with loose, lapeled jackets to match--plus wide belts and T-shirts to pull the look together.

And Karl Lagerfeld, for Fendi, shows what could be called American golf-dress styles, one of which is topped with a print-lined jacket and a peaked cap.

Of course the classic, easy-fit approach does not answer every fashion-conscious maiden’s prayers. Some women want clothes that reveal the results of all those hours of exercise and aerobics. And Gianfranco Ferre may be just their man. Although Ferre also does fluid shapes for spring, his black leather, backless short dress exposes more than it covers.

And Gianni Versace’s silk shantung, cinched-waist suit, with shapely jacket and skinny skirt is also for those who want to flaunt their firm physiques.