Dries Van Noten could have made a far-more uplifting case for his fall collection if only he'd run the show in reverse order. His full, floor-sweeping distressed-velvet skirt in an extraordinary shade of orange, cinched with a fuchsia satin sash and topped with a fragile black camisole embroidered with green flowers, would have made a fabulous opener. Together with another romantic, gray-beige gypsy skirt, embroidered in jet, he could have held the attention of the room. As well as added a succinct contribution to the general conversation about the desirability of long skirts for fall.

But instead, the show made a long and rather draggy journey toward those outstanding pieces. The characters on his runway looked like refugees from the Mitteleuropean 1940's: women with fancy bohemian pasts fallen on hard times. With poignant dance hall music playing in the background, they walked out as if bravely trying to make the best of a bad situation, in faded, fur-trimmed coats, rolled-up menswear pants, and platform shoes. Among the salt-and-pepper tweeds and voluminous raincoats, there were such tokens of lost splendor as tarnished lamé, drapey printed velvet, and cheerful folk prints. In the general drift, they seemed to be following the caravan of this fall's Russian theme. But the show's drabness was almost overwhelming, until that lovely, colorful moment at the end.