Watching a Valentino show, it's hard not to be overcome by a wistful attack of the "if onlys." If only we women really were that precious and adored. If only we had leisure to get together the Veronica Lake hairdo and the immaculate makeup. If only there were still gentlemen to put us on that pedestal…

Of course, its a wildly difficult stretch to imagine such a thing today, but in a season when so many designers are referencing forties movie-star glamour, Valentino Garavani is one old-school master fully qualified to take us there—if only for a few fabulous flashbacks. Once past the daywear—where he worked on puffing up the shoulders of shifts with fur sleeves, and glamorizing tunics over pants—the gorgeousness flickered intermittently into focus. But you had to keep your eye on the ball—or at least, the right ball gown: Valentino is one of the few designers still operating who persist in showing 70 outfits on a runway—a distinct challenge to a modern audience with an attention span permanently set to "tell it to me quick." Still, the lettuce-green satin dress, delicately ruched in the front with a sparkle on the shoulder, the cream column with a draped knot in the bodice, a hyacinth off-the-shoulder gown, and, of course, the showstoppers in Valentino's signature red made it well worth the wait.