"I wanted it to show off a woman's strengths but hide her weaknesses," said Catherine Malandrino of her Pre-Fall collection. To do that, the designer worked in silhouettes that flattered without being too cookie-cutter. For instance, a black lace, capped-sleeve collar that bared the décolletage was attached to an otherwise classic, fit-and-flare cream dress. Malandrino focused quite a bit on the collarbone area: There were lots of scoop necks and strategically placed cutouts.

Geometric lace is something of a Malandrino signature. This season, she used it on jackets—both cropped and hip-length—and coated it to look like leather. The designer titled the collection "Last Days of Summer," so special attention was paid to fabric weight. Even when she did use leather, it was in the lightest suede possible. Her pleated and cropped suede pants draped more like silk.

There was a slightly sporty element, too, which came out in sweatshirt blouses, as well as a few little dresses that were inspired by tennis. It worked best on a white number overlaid with organza that was embroidered with geometric, treelike shapes. A lace shift with diagonal navy stripes, on the other hand, felt out of place with the rest of the collection. It was a little too sweet for Malandrino, whose talent lies in her slight edge. That same lace-on-stripes combination was more successful as inserts on the top of a navy jersey dress. It made the wearer look strong and sexy, just as Malandrino had intended.