Who were the women Christian Lacroix sent out for Fall? Some sort of squadron of Ruritanian drum majorettes, marching along with their corseted, bejeweled jackets; leg-of-mutton sleeves; frothing tulle skirts; lace-veiled eyes; and jet-encrusted mohawks? Only a dull mind could ask for any literal explanation. An invitation to Lacroix's couture show is a ticket to witness a unique excursion into mind-bending color, multiple historical mergers, and elaborate detail piled upon elaborate detail.

Where it starts out—this season, in sexy little bustled skirts—isn't where it can be expected to end. In between, there are the girls in splashily painted pink sixties car coats and matador jackets, the severe Edwardian ladies, the infantas, and finally, a grand procession of guests wending their way to some fantasy ball. Everything about it is unlikely, excessive, and delightful. Who else could match lace skirts with lace tights and get away with it? Or bother to patchwork three different shades of pink and red beneath the black passementerie on one tiny toreador bolero? Or paint the layered flounces of gown to look like the petals of a giant poppy? At a time when so many voices are calling for a return to sobriety and realism, this is certainly not it. It's escapism on such a heroic scale that it can only leave an audience wishing that life could ever live up to Lacroix.