As tiresome as it's become to view everything through recession-colored glasses, with a smart-priced commercial collection like DKNY, that really is the only appropriate lens. In addition to investing in that one special luxury item this season, the designer customer will want to stretch her dollar like a pair of sample-sale Louboutins.

With that in mind, Karan and company built Fall on wearable looks pulled together from top to toe—or, more specifically, from funny little felt hat to lace-up spectator bootie, with sleek gloves and a rainbow of oversize envelope clutches and cavernous carryalls in between. Modern, grown-up polish was the name of the game. Pencil skirts ended mid-calf; waists were neatly belted; and trim, boxy coats had bracelet sleeves. Clashing patterns—houndstooths, stripes, a blown-up plaid—kept things from looking too mature or too vintage (though I did find myself idly wondering when the next season of Mad Men is going to begin). Ultimately, this was a true autumn collection, with loads of merch from outerwear to scarves to knits to pants, not all of it skewed to a more soigné lady. Moms and daughters shopping together should take a look: They might finally agree on something.