"Oh, it's this whole Marie Antoinette thing," Charles Nolan said backstage. How exactly does a politically motivated Democrat, whose first love is American sportswear, take onboard the Queen of Fashion? He translates the pannier construction of the eighteenth century into a twenty-first-century weave of industrial mesh and taffeta, allowing the fabric to hold its shape. He counterbalances the court of Louis XVI with the court of Camelot, bringing back the Jackie Kennedy coats and neat suits of Spring and emboldening them with let-them-eat-cake details like flounced bows and gigot sleeves.

Nolan's Seventh Avenue-meets-Petit Trianon concept was best achieved in the first look: a sporty-haute taffeta trench over a ruffled top and skinny corduroys, with knee-high boots. When Versailles is your starting point, there are bound to be a few overly florid moments, but Nolan can be excused for his exuberance: He's just received a Fashion Group International award for his retail store; his company has a newish, deep-pocketed investor; and there's the promise of Clinton or Obama in the White House in '08.