Elie Saab scored some major red-carpet coups at the Oscars on Sunday, putting nominee Anna Kendrick in a blush pink gown and Rachel McAdams in a pastel floral number—both dresses from his January couture collection and both unapologetically pretty. For Fall, he took a much darker view, focusing primarily on black, with hits of burgundy, teal, and midnight blue for evening. His message would've been more powerful and effective had he edited down the 60-look show and eliminated the clingy tree-motif jerseys, but his sleek hourglass sheaths and flirty, full-skirted pieced lace cocktail dresses will appeal to more than just Hollywood starlets.

Zeroing in on real-world clothes rather than his usual event-dress-heavy lineup was a prescient move in a season when designers en masse have been rediscovering the power of plain. You couldn't call all of his eveningwear restrained, though: There were some see-through ombré net and peekaboo lace styles that, as any celebrity stylist could tell you, will never fly with the fashion police. But when Saab tamped down the excess in favor of understated goddess gowns and just-revealing-enough jewel-tone sequined columns, it was easy to picture the results on a red carpet sometime soon.