Squaring circles is the name of the game for every established house this season. In a nutshell: How do you keep customers (i.e., freaked-out department stores and skeptical, reality-seeking shoppers) onside, while also keeping up the dialogue with fashion? At Dior, John Galliano found an easy compromise with a collection lightly based on the orientalism of Paul Poiret, an artistic Parisian craze dating back almost a century. No need for frantic reference-Googling here: The main point of Galliano's device is that it gave access to the areas of harem pants, rich gilded brocades, and Asian influences in general. Christian Dior never went East himself, certainly, but the notion wove ikat patterns, cheongsam fastenings, paisley prints, and those newly fashionable trousers into the house codes in a way that came out making sense for the many markets Galliano has to juggle.

Happily, there was no sense of straining for a recession solution about it. After treating Dior's standard suitings to a light, shortened adaptation of Poiret's hobble skirt, Galliano moved on to paisley-print day dresses and thence to the drapey harems (best in cream satin with a pale beige astrakhan gilet). That opened a neat portal through which Galliano's romantic, silver filigree Indian-embroidered chiffon cocktail and evening dresses could pass, looking effortlessly pretty. The result: grown-up fare for regular women, editorial-grade styling to appeal to the fashion press, and, in total, a clever feat of simultaneous translation from a well-traveled designer who knows how to reach his global markets.