There was no misunderstanding the opening, at least: the MGM signature tune and Lara Stone strutting petulantly in a leather trenchcoat, beehive, and giant pout—it was Bardot to a T! Jean Paul Gaultier always lets us know where we are at the outset, and for Fall, we were off on a movie buff's coach tour of the gracious wardrobes of Hollywood heroines. Ostensibly. In fact, it proved a bit of an elastic theme that at times meandered off-script. It ranged so widely—from a Louise Brooks flapper dress and gilded fur coat to an ultrashort gold T-shirt under a black leather vest that looked like a possible choice for Lindsay Lohan—that it was sometimes hard to see where the designer was going. (Geometric-Deco meets sci-fi was a particularly odd patch.)

Still, theme fashion shows are a dusty old concept in the first place. All that matters in haute couture is a strong voice, incredible workmanship, and whether a balance between timelessness and timeliness has been struck. Gaultier did all that by working in his stock characters and garments: the matelot, the androgynous lady in the pantsuit, the trenches, the smokings, the corsets. No one in Paris can top his tuxedo coat with velvet revers, the just-so cut of a pantsuit with a double collar, or the funny showgirl things he did here as an excuse to spotlight the kind of corseting he's been doing since before Madonna was a star. As for the timeliness, he threw in a nod to sporty-casual chic (a notion that's raising its head with persistence this week) via overalls in both amethyst velvet and gold paillettes. Goodness knows where they came from, but they seemed kind of right.