For the first time in ten seasons, Monique Lhuillier broke with her usual 30-some looks at Bryant Park in favor of a mini-presentation at the Plaza's Oak Room. As the designer explained, there's the economy, but there's also the looming Oscars. (The gown guru is headed back west shortly.)

Lhuillier's brat pack of eleven models sat or stood in gossipy clusters, like petulant girls bored at an adult's party. The designer wanted to address both sides of our recessionary needs. The collection, themed Modern Ballets Russes, had a lot of that "something special" that many designers now believe is key. There were horsehair-stiffened skirts on full dresses and, of course, embroideries aplenty—one froth fest of a gown definitely suffered from a surfeit of specialness. Meanwhile, quieter pieces—like an open-back black silk jersey column (very Tilda in Lanvin)—could be accessorized umpteen different ways. Et voilà, value!

The edgy styling with its artfully snagged body stockings and tangles of necklaces added an interesting layer to Lhuillier's wholly unedgy vibe, but ultimately it was distracting, and it became hard to tell what the dresses will really look like. That and the fact that there are apparently 20 more looks back at the showroom really mess with a pundit's red-carpet betting. Well, I'll venture a guess anyway. My money's on an elegant navy jersey number with copper paillettes and a keyhole cutout. Are you listening, Angelina?