Runway To Reality

MICHEL EULER/AP; PIERRE VERDY/AFP

EDGY OR SAFE? Big and red at Christian Dior, left, pretty does it at Stella McCartney

Pity the pundit who tries to draw conclusions about the state of the world from the spring-summer 2003 fashion shows in Milan and Paris. Fashion forecasting is a dubious business in any year, but this year it's tougher than ever. Designers at both cities were buoyantly optimistic, unveiling ambitious new shapes and colors in the face of shrinking sales, a stuttering economy and a looming U.S.-led war against Iraq.

The trends on the runways of Milan and Paris — shimmering silver, tiny skirts, Asian influences, a new top-heavy silhouette, to name but a few — were stronger and...

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