Last September, Vera Wang showed a spring collection that was one of the highlights of the season, proving that she was capable of much more than just dressing a woman for her wedding day. Sadly, her fall show left you feeling like you'd been jilted at the altar, waiting for a vision of loveliness that never showed up.

Wang sent out a large number of chiffon evening dresses, but all the deliciously rich-yet-light colors she showed for spring were traded in for a palette that consisted mainly of dour blacks and browns, with some challenging shades of green and terra-cotta for contrast. And the accessory that took center stage—a fur bonnet tied under the neck—was an unusual choice, to say the least. There were arty, Empire-line tops, whisper-thin cardigans, and full tweed or brocade skirts, tricked up with dressmaker-like tucks and folds; but there wasn't enough here to get a woman through her working day. It's not that Wang needs to churn out corporate-friendly clothes—she's far too individual and spirited for that—but interpreting wardrobe-friendly basics in her own way could be intriguing. (There were some effective little fuller jackets, which have become one of this coming fall's key pieces, here done with a pleated, Empire back, and in soft velvet.)

The wonderful thing about Wang is that, through her bridal business, she has mastered the art of merging fairy-tale fantasy with hard reality, dressing women of every shape and size for that all-important day. Now the challenge is to make that marvelous empathy cross over.