This season every major designer is talking about creating a "beauty" strong enough to defy our anxious times. Backstage that was the word Tom Ford used to characterize his Fall collection for Gucci—a collection in which beauty was personified as a power vixen extravagantly armored to face down a troubled world.

She made her first entrance in a white coat with a huge collar, ballooning pushed-up sleeves and a full skirt, her midsection lashed into a buckled, corseted belt. With wicked black, spiky over-the-knee boots and long leather gloves, she struck the high-glam silhouette that dominated the show through a sequence of coats, jackets and slinky skirts seamed to cling to every dangerous curve.

The Gucci mini of last season was dropped—literally. Now the length is back down to the knee, with the emphasis on dramatic upstanding collars and voluminous sleeves, often exaggerated in fur and contrasted with the erotic suggestiveness of lingerie beneath. The skirts and dresses—paneled, ruched and pieced together with strips of ribbon—called up comparisons with corsetry. For evening, there were gowns constructed with cutout zones of sparkling mesh and frilled bra tops; others snaked to the floor, held in place with complex asymmetric straps crossing the torso and shoulders.

If Ford is treading the territory mapped out by Thierry Mugler and Azzedine Alaïa in the ’80s, it’s no surprise. Much of fashion is heading in that direction anyway, and Ford, after all, bases Gucci’s entire brand proposition on finding new ways of upping the ante on sex season after season.