Jean Paul Gaultier's message tonight: You're never too old for a little striptease. Out first was the fortysomething French comedian Valérie Lemercier with a bouffant 'do that aged her another good 20 years. About halfway down the runway, she peeled off her scarf and tossed it into the second row. Wearing silvery beehive wigs, the models followed her lead, throwing their trenches and bouclé jackets—those trappings of the Parisian bourgeoisie—into a pile in front of the photographers.

Dita Von Teese did a striptease of her own at a Gaultier couture show when he was launching a lingerie collection not that long ago. There were no bare derrieres here, but there was a lot of tugging at leather gloves. The trouble with this gambit: The best clothes—all those trenches, in half leather, half wool scuba fabric—ended up on the floor.

The items that remained were classics—cameo-print blouses buttoned up to there, pleated slacks—but the cuts seemed purposefully and curiously old-lady. Even matrons don't want to be mumsy.