The new, punctual, be-suited Marc Jacobs stood backstage after his Louis Vuitton Fall collection and briskly rattled off the need-to-know: "We just worked with shapes. Darts, folds, and pleats. I don't like to use these words because they sound pretentious, but if you like, last season was painterly, and this season's sculptural."

In essence, what he'd just shown was a more shapely and pulled-together version of the eighties-inflected collection he'd sent out under his own name in New York. If it led to puzzlement at first viewing, now, at least, his intentions can be read in context. Four weeks is a long time in fashion, and in the interim other designers—most notably Stefano Pilati at YSL—have been pushing big pleated pants, scrolliform necklines, and standout dirndls in heavy fabrics.

At Vuitton, what with the abstract conical fez, ballooning pants, and blocklike pump-wedges, the silhouette seemed to have been drawn from Grace Jones in her early eighties heyday, or the moment when Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana dominated Paris fashion. It's never quite that exact in Jacobs' hands, of course, but compared with last season's random, chopped-up, multicolored collage, this was a total top-to-toe grown-up look treated to a toned-down palette of muted browns, dusty blues, mint, and black.

In some ways it seemed right. This is a moment when many designers have intuited the need to chuck out the junk and get back to the cutting table. At Vuitton, even the bags—the bellwether of every change in the economics of desire—have been stripped of jingly junior doodads and are now quieted down to the point where the branding is only visible on embossed surfaces.

The question is whether that meant throwing out baby with bathwater. When the overexaggerated shapes calmed down, some chic things emerged, especially toward evening: a long-sleeved dress with a standout whorl at the hip, a strapless sheath with a caged tulle bustle, and a couple of crinolined dance dresses. Otherwise, though, it was lumpy going.