All the current talk of a return to ladylike fashion must strike Oscar de la Renta as pretty amusing. While other designers pick up and drop influences each season, de la Renta has been buffing and polishing his part-fantasy, part-practical sportswear approach for decades. Elegance is his native tongue.

For fall, de la Renta's daywear took a distinctly cozy turn. He started off with plush, plum-colored cashmere knits paired with cool brown suede or cashmere flannel and sometimes trimmed with sable. He took brocade, one of the most tradition-bound fabrics in the lexicon, and cut it into jazzy, fitted little cocktail dresses. He also sent out some austerely beautiful evening dresses, several seductive variations on his signature ruffled party confections, and suits that will last through the decade, never mind the season.

Where the designer was clearly having fun, though, was in shuffling together day and evening looks: de la Renta paired a taupe cashmere tank with an airy black taffeta skirt, put a chubby fox fur vest over gold silk brocade crop pants, and tossed one of his princely embellished coats atop slim trousers and a simple silk blouse. Both comfortable to wear and delightful to look at, this is the kind of elegance that only comes with experience.