Hoping to showcase "a different side" of their talent, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra dreamt up individual characters for each of their models, engaged the MisShapes to do the music, and, after deciding on the waist as the anchor of their silhouette, set about playing with sleeves and hem lengths.

The haunting fairy-tale illustrations of Arthur Rackham and Gustaf Tenggren were the creative kickoff point. Rackham's and Tenggren's long-locked nymphs, "oddly enough," the designers said, "lead us to forties film noir." (Well, both genres are dark and moody, and they do both feature sylphlike damsels in distress.) The rigor of that decade's lines, already a touchstone this season, was a good match for Costello and Tagliapietra's draping skills, as evidenced by the slim cocktail dresses, especially a beautiful gathered teal one worn by Danielle Zinaich and a gray satin number with "claw" insets. They also included more silk (some sand-washed four times to give it a sueded hand) amid their signature jersey, and successfully added prints, notably a trompe l'oeil fur and a Rorschach floral.

It was when the well-liked duo went against their own grain and tried to go uncharacteristically casual that missteps were made. For instance, when a silky wrap was awkwardly layered over a turtleneck. Styling, in other words, is where they slightly lost the plot.