The catalyst for Peter Copping's new collection was a book called Exactitudes by a pair of Dutch art photographers who took pictures of different people in almost identical outfits. "It got me thinking," he said, "about what the Nina Ricci uniform is." First and foremost among the house codes is the little black dress, so the mini show began with a trio of them, one in stretch radzimir, another in passementerie-trimmed velvet, and the last in a flocked butterfly motif borrowed from a kimono he picked up in Japan. Tweed skirtsuits are another house signature; here Copping whipped them up in a piece-washed style and another in a stretchy jersey that only looked like tweed.

All that dwelling on uniforms eventually led the designer to the military looks that made up the strongest part of the collection. We can't live on cocktail frocks alone, and the little fuchsia sweater and draped and twisted pencil skirt in army green had a wear-everyday appeal that could turn into a growth business for the brand. Still, the most reliable thing about a Ricci pre-fall collection just might be the red-carpet fodder. We won't be surprised when we see the plunge-front black gown with the tulle bodice and stretchy, long column skirt at the Globes or SAG Awards later this month.