Lawrence Steele has a delicate way of tearing leaves out of fashion history and lightly rewriting them for a new generation. For fall, he said, he was thinking of "Balenciaga, Chanel, Vionnet. The beauty that once was, as an ideal—but we're in today." Almost everyone is referencing the twentieth-century greats these days, either literally or at some crumpled remove, but Steele isn't one of the shredders. His version of fall's now-familiar equation—silky dresses, camisoles, little skirts, and furs—comes out with a meticulous finish.

Contriving to infuse a sense of chic into his collection, Steele also managed to sidestep the inherent pitfalls of both ladylike frumpery and saccharine girlishness that beset many designers who set off down the well-trodden retro road. Some of that came through his subtle way of mixing soft sorbet shades of the same color in the same outfit (a bois de rose angora cardigan with a flesh-pink skirt, say, or two mismatching tints of green), and resisting the temptations of over decoration. He also leavened the frilly fragility of the dressy look with a few cool yoke-backed coats and dresses taken from the book of Balenciaga. Simply styled with bead-encrusted satin pumps, the look had a certain abbreviated modernity that set it refreshingly apart from standard vintage rehash.