When fall showings begin in Europe this weekend, the world's great designers will once again etch their fantasies in cloth, drape them on some of the world's skinniest women and send them down runways to be observed by the most sophisticated retailers on the planet.
It will be, as it is twice each year, an exercise in artistry rather than commerce.
Judging from these exclusive advance photos of new styles from Milan, the mood for fall is romantic. Shoulders are rounded; shapes are soft; draping and pleating and lavish use of fabric implies an overall opulence reminiscent of bygone eras.
Of course buying a new look for each new season seems an antiquated notion to most U.S. women.
But the idea of dressing beautifully, dramatically, distinctively or simply appropriately retains its allure. The business of fashion may ebb and flow, but the romance of it remains constant.
How else to account for the increasing use of clothing as an indicator of character, status, even political leanings in the films and literature of the '80s? How else to account for the public's unceasing interest in all things related to fashion and personal style?
And clothes as appealing as some of those shown here may just prove to be the catalyst needed to start U.S. women shopping again.
Relatively few will be able to afford the real European clothes once they are imported by American retailers to U.S. stores. But eventually the mood and shape of these exquisitely crafted and expensive outfits will become the basis for fashions that show up at all price levels in stores around the country.