"This is a very light collection," Carolina Herrera said as the first models strode out at an informal presentation in her Seventh Avenue showroom today. "Feminine and romantic." This designer has probably put those words together many times before, but the clothes did have an appealingly unfussy quality that has sometimes gone missing from Herrera's runway shows. Her explanation: This isn't about fantasy or pretty pictures, it's about real life.

The woman whose real life calls for a ball gown has plenty to choose from here: A blossom pink textured organza strapless dress was an understated, modern knockout, and if it's drama the wearer's after, a gray Chantilly lace floor-scraper should fit the bill. Knee-length cocktail numbers were hardly an afterthought, though. Among the variations Herrera showed, a strapless dress in a watercolor print she called "her Monet" was particularly lovely. As for suits, it isn't necessarily easy to romance houndstooth, but she managed to do it by softly draping the jacket's lapels and marrying it to cuffed trousers and matching Manolo Blahnik pumps. All in all, a terrific Herrera outing.