Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce are advancing into fall with Napoleonic zeal—literally. At the start of their show, a tableau of hussars and Empire beauties rose into view on a revolving plinth, arranged around a ceremonial black monolith emblazoned with the Emperor's laurels. The Napoleonic codebook gave them all the historical ammunition they needed to cut a swath through current themes: the play between masculine and feminine; the baroque flourishes; the rich velvets and antique golds; the swaggering capes and high-collar shirts. Naturally, they also had carte blanche to do things with raised-waist dresses, the Empire line pioneered by Josephine herself.

Military tailcoats, cut in shearling, along with tight knickers and jodhpurs with high riding boots marched out, followed by legions of coats in brown and beige, all detailed with gold buttons or leather straps and brass hardware transplanted from saddlery. These designers have always loved a baby-doll, and this season's are their most sumptuous yet—lovely little puff-sleeve things in eau de nil, emerald, and vibrant red velvet or old-gold brocade. Streaks of silver paint glinted in the gathers of one; others had bands of gold-thread military embroidery circling bosoms; yet another was held up with an imperial-medal chain.

It's fair to point out that none of this is necessarily fresh territory in fashion (John Galliano, for one, has staked it out before). Yet Dolce e Gabbana applied such intense workmanship here that they engraved their own signature on the plot (note the gold crown placed above the D&G initials on bags and T-shirts).

The triumphal mood culminated in a velvet-slippered procession of court ladies straight out of The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame, the 1804 painting by David that hangs in the Louvre. Tucked among the sheer, gem- and pearl-embroidered numbers, there were two extraordinary gowns with skirts made of layered feathers—one painted to look like leopard spots, the other gilded with antique gold. These qualified as top trophies in the Dolce & Gabbana campaign to dominate the red carpet.