In a superb collection that distilled the essence of her magical fashion potion (ladylike elegance, nature vs techno, gutsy color mixes, covetable accessories, and the occasional nod to Comme des Garçons), Miuccia Prada again demonstrated what everyone has been thinking since Tom Ford departed Gucci: that she is the main reason to come to Milan Fashion Week.

Summoning 1950s couture, Prada sent out tightly belted knee-length skirt-suits and coats (some A-line) with puffy sleeves around the wrist. But although several styles were offered in a sweet Vichy-like pattern, she managed to make her tailoring look unfussy, notably by using raw wools, partnering jackets with asymmetrical skirts, and by adding athletic elements like zippers and varsity ribbing. The same deliberately clumsy elegance was felt in the form-fitting halter dresses nonchalantly worn over sweaters.

Even Prada’s evening wear had the same unsentimental quality. Her embroidered dresses, cut in a custom-made mix of organza and silk, were halved by a zipper at the bodice. While the half-moon bags are sure to be all the rage come fall, the hefty footwear—multi-striped high heels or chunky mannish flat shoes—added to the sense of grit in a collection that, in other less subtle hands, would quickly have resembled a tepid pastiche of vintage Dior, or even old Westwood.

But the message was ultimately about today, and if Miuccia looked back, it was to her own version of the nineties, as she reunited with two of her favorite models, the angelic Esther de Jong and the evergreen Kirsten Owen.

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