The distance Christian Lacroix is putting between his fantastic haute couture extravaganzas and his more accessible ready-to-wear line is now, quite literally, measurable in inches—12, that is, above the knee. That describes the divide between the old image Lacroix has been sitting with since the eighties—an honored place at the table of the Ladies Who Lunch—and the one he wants now: dancing on those tabletops with the It Girls with Legs.

The radically cropped lengths of his tunics, skirts and shorts—all shown with black tights and suede boots—are a plain declaration that Lacroix is out to grab a new audience. Will the girls get it? Maybe. In a season when so much somber clothing will end up hanging in stores, the rich, multi-patterned, shimmery surfaces of Lacroix's pieces could glow like a beacon in the darkness: Other than the radical crops, the man is staying true to his Anadalusian/Parisian colors.

So that no one could miss the reference to his aesthetic roots, Lacroix played a vintage video of bullfighting scenes as a backdrop, while out trotted a black-and-white scarf-print shift and coat with matching lining, a strapless paisley-print bubble dress, and a hot-pink brocade coat with a black lace overlay. The designer had worked hard to translate many of the touches of his couture here; witness the deep bands of jet-beaded Spanish embroidery in a bodice and the fur cap-sleeves set into an antiqued-gold brocade shift. As alternative partywear for girls who don't want to blend into the background, it might just catch on with today's generation the way it did with their mothers—though, thankfully this time, poufs and shoulder pads aren't involved.