A drawbridge came down and we were in the Middle Ages at Viktor & Rolf. The Dutch designers took cues from knights' armor this season because, they said backstage, "We felt the need for protection." Their show notes elaborated: "Fashion's ever-increasing speed reminds us how important it is to battle for our creativity."

Whatever the motivation, the show unfolded as a joust between black and ecru, with many of the outfits coming down the runway twice, once in each color. Clever, but not necessarily all that creative. The models' faces were painted blood red, but the stiff fabrics (felted wool, sculptural leather) looked practically swordproof. No real blood was spilled, although it might've been if the round frills that decorated the shoulders and the ruffles that stood up several inches from the arm seams of the jackets had been actual metal. Playing damsel to the knights in shining armor were a couple of pretty sweaters with rose intarsias. These were worn with kiltlike pleated skirts and unstructured dresses that looked like crusaders' flags.

Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren are consummate tailors. Strip these clothes of the theme-y trappings and you could just about make that out.