"Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," Marvin Gaye crooned on the soundtrack at Oscar de la Renta's show tonight. One couldn't help but wonder if it was the designer's final riposte in the great hot dog/hamburger debate of 2012. De la Renta is undoubtedly the real thing, but this collection fell somewhat short of the high bar he's set for himself over the decades. It started positively, with a new silhouette. Fitted through the torso, then A-line to below the knee, the show-opening indigo denim tweed dress accessorized with a matching jacket looked young and fresh. An off-the-shoulder top embroidered with bugle beads arranged in polka dots, worn with cropped pants, likewise had a lively energy. But as the show progressed, it lost some of that focus. A surfeit of print and an excess of embellishment were part of the problem, and the hair and makeup and styling looked off. De la Renta should've nixed the distracting novelty tights.

He did manage to turn things around by the end, though. Oscar is a master of the after-dark arts, and a caviar-beaded fringe gown had the timeless rightness that he's always made his own.