If this is the season for ladylike clothes, this is Valentino's moment. No sly irony here, though. His real-life ladies lead a pampered limo life, apparently unchanged since the Duchess of Windsor's day. In fact, Wallis would have loved the '40s flared-skirt cocktail suits worn with fox muffs, the starburst of seams on the front of a double-face coat and the standout slim lace shirt-dress to the floor, embroidered with a trace of golden sequins and sashed in ivory chiffon.

But the fussier effects may not have received that royal seal of approval. After some recent adventures in chic simplicity, Valentino now leaves no surface unembellished. Of course, if anyone can approximate haute couture detailing in ready-to-wear, it is he. A turtleneck sweater has a twist of evening gown drapery across the bosom; a cappuccino tweedy coat is hemmed in Persian lamb and embroidered roses. And that's just for starters.

After dark, Valentino really pulls out all the stops. His more subtle looks worked bes—like a quartet of scarlet crepe cocktail dresses and the most luxurious trenchcoat in town reimagined as an opera coat, cut full to the floor in either champagne raw silk, black or Valentino red duchesse-satin. And let's hope that Va-Va's ladies own wardrobe trunks large enough to pack those giant crinoline ball gowns ruffled with organza fins—and that they find somewhere to wear them!