Paul Poiret has been cited by a zillion designers this week. This is partly in anticipation of the upcoming retrospective at the Costume Institute, but also simply because those waistless Poiret pear shapes are an inevitable next step in the Darwinian evolution of the silhouette. But of all those shows where his name was invoked, at Vivienne Tam it was the most difficult to see any actual evidence of Poiret in the clothes.

Season after season, Tam reworks the Chinese qipao. This go-round, she developed a qipao/twenties hybrid and overadorned it with ruffled bibs and geometric shapes ┐slashed┐ to expose flashes of the underlayering—and then added clunky, studded wood platform shoes for good measure. It was difficult to imagine where anyone could wear most of this: A lot of it was too fussy for the office but still not quite right for a night on the town.

A copper-sequined mesh dress was an exception, as was a satin trench with a quilted skull on the back, and a dress with a dragon-embroidered overlay and fur trim at neck and hemlines. Those worked because, unlike much of the rest, they were straightforward looks that hadn┐t been forced through some esoteric fashion filter.