"Romantic Utility" may have been the idea that motivated Sarah Burton for McQueen's resort collection, but those two words inspired the extraordinary image of an Englishwoman caught up in the turmoil of a faraway war at the same time as she was ensnared by the alien beauty of the local culture. Empire of the Sun, in other words. You could wonder if that was some kind of metaphor for Burton's own situation after weathering the media storm of a royal wedding, but there was a distinct period feel in the nipped-waist jackets and mid-calf skirts with a kick pleat, or the jacket and skirt inspired by the lace of a Victorian tablecloth. The utilitarian side of the collection was embodied by cotton drill, pieced together in different military greens. And there was exotica in the ocelot print on a blouse and a full-skirted cocktail dress, or the embroidery that brought together Africa and India in shelled, beaded, and mirrored clusters of decoration.

The introduction of cotton to the McQueen vocabulary was exactly the kind of user-friendly addition we can expect now that Burton's in charge. "Cotton makes it real," she said, at the same time as she was contemplating a rail of clothing that nudged resortwear into the realm of couture. That face-off between reality and fantasy felt like quintessential, paradoxical McQueen. Here, it wasn't simply the extreme tailored silhouette and the ornate surface treatments. There was also a pieced leather biker jacket with an ocelot back and a trick lapel in cotton. Or a cocktail sheath whose bodice was embroidered in gold bullion that melted into black embroidery which, in turn, infected the faille dress beneath. That's even before we got to the evening dresses, dipped in gold for twenty-first-century princesses.