That a woman as self-possessed and innately elegant as Cate Blanchett will fly to Paris to inspect the Armani Privé runway show two seasons running speaks volumes for what can be mined from Giorgio Armani's couture collection for real life. What was she picking out when she watched his "Rock Symphony" so intently? Hard to know, exactly, but by the looks of her, the close-fitting, waisted jackets and the cropped Spencers were meriting a mental note. They were shown with full, short skirts, the best in a blue silk ikat print, and when they were followed by two linear, strong-shouldered tuxedo suits with narrow pants, she probably wasn't the only woman in the room thinking, That could do me nicely.

Where was the "Rock" in all this, though? Armani said he'd been inspired by Bowie, which accounted for the glitter booties and squashed fedoras. There were also Jackson-esque fingerless jeweled gloves, worn singly, and an ombré magenta-to-black brocade pantsuit that just might be laid at the door of His Purpleness. That said, there wasn't too much theming going on; in fact, when Armani's eveningwear appeared, it was hard to fathom exactly where the idea for the stiff, podlike, swathed tulip skirts had popped up from. The spaces in between, however, were filled with one or two of the columnar black entrance- and exit-makers that serve sophisticates so well at awards ceremonies. Armani's mannequins, with their pinned and scraped up hairdos, didn't manage to do them justice, but no worries. Get Blanchett in one, and she'll do just that.