To get to John Galliano's fall show, guests had to drag themselves to a bleak industrial studio on the outskirts of Paris on a freezing and traffic-clogged Saturday night. But if anyone was expecting one of the designer's extravagant fashion performances as compensation for the trek, it didn't materialize. Instead, Galliano offered what was, for him, a minor-key piece about a tattered army of Confederates.

The show opened, rather confusingly, with some long black bulky coats that looked like near counterparts to the ones he had shown earlier in the week at Dior, though a touch rougher and more rustic in the execution. As it went on, the differences emerged more, as frayed fragments of the American flag got patched into skirts and jackets, and plaid work-shirting appeared shaded into the tips of garments. More than the clothes, it was the music—stirring country-music ballads of war and personal loss sung by Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, and Dolly Parton—that transmitted the feeling that Galliano was fingering: aspects of patriotism and working-class American roots, as well as hints of its current psychological state. It added a timely footnote to the march of militarism that has risen elsewhere this season, and there was a certain poignance to his faded and homespun paisely patchwork-printed prairie dresses and makeshift coats and hats apparently hewn out of Victorian rugs. But though they fit nicely enough into his narrative, they lacked some of the creative intensity that Galliano usually brings. Unlike his wilder outings, this didn't feel like a collection in which he had taken on a personal battle to push fashion forward.