It started in the pre-fall collection: the trimming of the quirk, a new emphasis on elegant compatibility rather than eccentric clash. Those impulses blossomed in the latest Marni show, into something where you could imagine a whole new audience sighing, "Ah, now I get it." Consuelo Castiglioni's own mantra was "severe elegance." She cited the rigor of Martha Graham, the precision of modern architecture. "I want to go back to the start, with simplicity and discipline," she said before her show. Long, lean, clean lines were elongated still further by platform shoes. But an even clearer means to Castiglioni's end was to make things match. Like the opening coat and skirt. Or the skirt and jacket a few looks later that seamlessly blended into the backdrop and the floor covering. Or the top, skirt, and bag a few looks after that, which were all cut from the same cloth. At one point, there was even a suit—or at least a double-breasted coat-dress over a skirt—in basic black. But, lest we forget this is Marni we're talking about, the coat had a swingy shirttail back.

True, Castiglioni may have streamlined her sensibility, but she scarcely mothballed Marni's spirit. With all the emphasis on complement, there was still room for a fitted sheath whose short sleeves were composed of jutting black paillettes, or a sensational suit in a dissolving tartan. Suits are generally a safe option in fashion. The security offered by one of Castiglioni's versions was perhaps less reliable but more rewarding. And in keeping with that notion, the collection's leathers and furs were a little less than straightforward. The leathers, for instance, were bonded, which gave them an armorlike solidity. The furs, on the other hand, were toyed with—a beaver coat looked like it had been dip-dyed in jade green; mink jackets were carved into diamond patterns. There was a nonchalant decadence in such indulgences that suggested that the severity of Castiglioni's new elegance is ultimately anything but.