After his all-white Spring show, Ralph Lauren turned in a serious, elegant Fall collection that was almost entirely black. The high-ceilinged library of his Madison Avenue headquarters formed an appropriately scholarly backdrop for a show that embraced historical references—best seen in a lovely fitted, puff-sleeve Victorian top that stopped just above the waistline for a sexy glimpse of skin.

The designer kept silhouettes clean and close to the body, lending texture to his outfits by juxtaposing humble and high-scale, rough and supple: cotton cargo pants worn with a soft ruffled chiffon shirt and a supple velvet jacket, for example, or a cropped embroidered shearling jacket over a clinging velvet gown.

Jackets are making a concerted comeback, and Lauren offered a baker's dozen, each with its own attitude. Downtown hipsters will pick the cropped, fitted styles, or put the reworked chalk-stripe morning coat with a pair of jeans; uptown types will love the ladylike styles that hug the waist and flare slightly over the hips.

The biggest news was Lauren's new strength in eveningwear, which ranged from stay-at-home elegance—a beaded cashmere sweater and wool flannel pants—to the all-out glamour of embroidered silk gowns. Being in a black mood never looked so good.