Valentino's ultrachic collection filtered many of the strongest trends of the moment for the woman who wants her fashion leavened with a highly developed sense of well-bred elegance.

Against a runway of smoky mirrored lozenges suggesting the Argyle pattern that appeared (via elaborate intarsias and appliqués) on clothing and accessories throughout the collection, Valentino opened with a battalion of skinny pantsuits. He was inspired by turn-of-the-century men's uniform pants with their high waists, impeccable cut, and gentle boot-leg flare. Even the palette of red, black, and beige emphasized this martial spirit—as did the sharp wool capes. And his abbreviated, high-waist jacket seemed to extend even further the leg of pants that already seemed to go on forever.

But Valentino's loyal ladies also like to look feminine when the occasion demands, so those narrow jeans (with pockets in crocodile or python) and sable-trimmed bombers made way for airy lingerie cocktail frocks prettily composed of chiffon ruffles and dainty Valenciennes lace trim—protected from the winter weather with hourglass coats (one with the effect of corset cross-lacing in back to emphasize the point).

Valentino showed some looks from his January men's collection, recalling the Russian theme that dominated that show. They reappeared for women in suede boleros with trim of curled ostrich feathers (in luxurious imitation of Mongolian lamb), or jackets in the ubiquitous astrakhan. Another crossover from the men's collection were the newsboy caps, making accessory news this season, and luxuriously reinterpreted here in sheared mink and crocodile.

Valentino's couture touch brought exquisite workmanship to filmy lace blouses and brocade jackets as well as evening gowns that captured the season's passion for Victorian and Edwardian effects. A tiny beige and silver jacket that wouldn't have been out of place in the court of Nicholas and Alexandra was worn with slim flannel pants; a jet beaded capelet shrugged over a blouse frothing with lace; and courtly evening gowns had Tissot trains composed of tiers of ruffles. But Valentino can also pull off effortless chic, as he did with a superb white charmeuse crepe floor-length shirtwaist, trellised with lace ruffles.