"I wanted to do forties Hollywood—and late-seventies glamour," said Elie Saab, the Beirut-based designer who is building up a red-carpet profile for himself in both Paris and Los Angeles. His instinct for the right trend, plus the fact that the couture schedule now has a hole in it where Donatella Versace used to show, made his parade of va-va-voom drama-dresses worth scrutinizing. Saab's best looks were pale, sparkling, silver-beaded numbers constructed to hug the body at the crucial points and then trail glamorously to the floor. Together with one forties suit made entirely of gold sequins, they successfully evoked George Hurrell's classic portraits of Jean Harlow and Joan Crawford.

Though not exactly made for shrinking violets, this season's dresses showed more decorum than some of the semi-naked, multiprinted frocks Saab has unveiled before—a step in the right direction, now that fashion is in the mood for a little more dignity. (Though adding leggings—or jumpsuit devices—under some sheer dresses might have been taking modesty a little too seriously.) With his love of color, as well as silver-screen glam, Saab shows signs of increasing sophistication. He'll never cut it as a cerebral creator, but as a custom dressmaker, he can give New Hollywood, as well as the princesses of the Arab world, just what they want.