c.2015 New York Times News Service

c.2015 New York Times News Service

MILAN — Italy (and, indeed, most of the European Union) could use a fairy tale right about now, or at least the promise of a happy ending.

If it’s not going to come from their politicians (and though things with Greece are a little less fraught, it’s too soon to say it’s tiptoe-through-the-tulips time), fashion will be happy to provide it.

Or so it seemed in Milan at the start of the womenswear season.

Certainly Alberta Ferretti was going into the woods (this is not a metaphor: Her backdrop was spooky black boughs backlit in red and yellow) with a folklore à la Medici collection complete with a Little Red Riding Hood zip-front coat with enveloping fur-trimmed hood; ruby- and gold-embroidered black velvet Prince Charming pantsuits; and high-necked frill-bestrewn Snow White blouses under black pinafores.

There were rich courtier jacquards and Juliet dresses adorned with painterly silk prints of wild landscapes worn under ankle-length grandmother-knit crocheted afghan coats and vests, all culminating in black or white point d’esprit and lace nightie gowns, the better to dream in.

Ferretti said she had been thinking, in fact, not so much of the Brothers Grimm as of Italian heritage, Renaissance portraits in particular. And her goal was “to build and portray Italian excellence.” Although sometimes the realization looked more costume than clothes, the morals are not unrelated, making a statement about her country that was less “once upon a time” than “you will go to the ball.”

By contrast, if there was a message in Fausto Puglisi’s shoulder pads ’n’ zebra stripes ’n’ ultra-minis 1980s Madonna/rockabilly/Diana Vreeland “baroque punk” mashup (and yes, it was all that), it could be broadly interpreted as: “Crash the party — why wait for your fairy fashion godmother?”

Mixing glaring shades of Kelly green, hot pink and bright yellow with black and white, he sent out jewel-encrusted leather motorcycle jackets paired with bandeau tops; asymmetric minidresses sliced to show the waist on one side; cheetah-spotted greatcoats; chain belts dangling golden sunbursts; and red-coral-bedecked leopard leggings and gowns.

“Errors and mistakes” are a sign of personality, his show notes proclaimed, although football-pad striped mohair sweaters and LLBDs (little long black dresses) with vertigo-inducing hip-high slits were arguably looks that probably should have stayed in the atelier.

Still, you can understand the thinking. The 1980s were, after all, the time when Milanese fashion came into its own, in the footsteps of Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace (indeed, a lot of Puglisi resembles wannabe Versace). Why not follow the diamanté gingerbread crumbs and find your way back?

In any case, it was yet another chapter in the story Puglisi has been telling since he burst onto the scene in 2010, unlike Tommaso Aquilano and Roberto Rimondi’s offering at Fay, which saw them trading in their Snoopy-infused sportswear of recent seasons for subdued tartan and tailored schoolgirl styles (blazers, kilts, chunky sweaters). It had viewers scratching their heads and wondering if someone had waved a magic wand and transported them to St. Andrews.

Yet the bookishness continued at MaxMara, where the design team looked to Marilyn Monroe’s early Hollywood years (aka her less-well-known stint at UCLA) and her penchant for the works of John Milton and Dostoyevsky.

This took the shape of strict pencil skirts and body-hugging mohair sweaters, soft coats (sometimes mink lined, sometimes leopard print or houndstooth, notably unstructured) wrapped around the body like a bathrobe or blanket, and quilted satin bustier sheaths, all in shades of sand, cream, camel and sea-foam green.

But in case the comfort-curve emphasis obscured the literary dimension, there were horn-rimmed glasses and tasseled metallic loafers for effect. Consider it podiatric paradise regained.

It was Fendi, however, that told a fable of the future, not the past, even inspired as the collection was, according to Silvia Fendi, by the work of the 20th-century Swiss geometric abstractionist Sophie Taeuber-Arp.

The result — neat columns of white high-necked leather; leather panels on ponyskin pencil skirts or jersey dresses; leather A-line apron minis and tops with big buttons and patch pockets; geometric-print Empire-waisted puffa dresses; tailored two-tone mink and tritone curly shearling — telegraphed its own kind of utilitarian luxury.

And while some of the paneling was hard to parse (occasionally Karl Lagerfeld’s ideas can seem more editorial than practical; see also narrow trousers with fur cuffs the entire length of the calf), the whole had the unfussy, forward-looking momentum of a great adventure: the Ironmonger’s tale as transposed to the 22nd century. Something to look forward to, anyway.