John Galliano has already proved how far he can push it with iconoclastic delirium at Christian Dior. Making over the staid old "madam" house to become a global, cash-creating engine for bags, perfume, cosmetics: Done. Faces painted in exaggerated theatrical/clown/kabuki masks: Done. Showing an over-exaggerated version of what will appear in stores? Seen and understood.

Galliano was up to his old merge-meister devices again for fall. The collection, he explained, was inspired by illustrated Vogue covers from the 1900s, using them as a route through to the Edwardiana/teddy boy revival of the 1950s. What that basically boiled down to was introducing humongous, Poiret-style fur-collared coats into the rockabilly canon of neon leopard spot, vast Elvis-does-Vegas lamé draped jackets, and 4-inch crepe-soled brothel creepers. It was, as usual, taken to the absolute theatrical max—which produced only an exhausted sense of been there, done that.

There were, among all this, some of the pretty, fragile evening dresses that Galliano confects so well: one in ice blue, sheathed in silver sparkles, another in eau de nil frilled with watery chiffon. Lovely—but these, too, now have the inevitable feel of a design sensibility set to autopilot. Fashion, especially now, needs to be astonished by new approaches to creating beauty for modern times. In the fall 1994 collection that won him his deserved place in the Parisian establishment, a pre-Dior Galliano proved himself prodigiously capable of that with only a few yards of black silk. If he could retrieve his sense of that dreamy simplicity, it would count for more than all the cacophonous entertainment he lays on now.