The staginess of the presentation was a giveaway. Dolce & Gabbana's venue was swathed in quilted red velvet, illuminated by bordello lighting. White-tie-and-tailed beauties served Champagne to guests as they were seated; the set was a broken-down opera backdrop. And when the show started, Pavarotti boomed his way through Verdi on the soundtrack. It was opera night in Palermo, circa 1910, with all the Sicilian boys in their worn Sunday best and the local aristos cramming the balconies in their faded finery.

For some godforsaken reason, there were people in the audience today who took exception to that enchanting vision of sartorial historicism. "It's not escape, it's a dream," said Stefano Gabbana before the show, although escape and dream actually blended effortlessly in the gilded spectacular that he and Domenico Dolce mounted. The genesis was a cape that Dolce's dad had tailored in the mists of time. Tistera they call them in Sicily, and it was that tradition the duo tapped. "We didn't look at a book or a movie for inspiration," said Gabbana. "It was all about family."

And family, spanning generations, sparked a collection that straddled decades, from cashmere underwear that was the male equivalent of granny pants, to the cabled cardigan and drop-crotch pants that looked like hip-hop wear, Sicilian-style. But the star of the show was the overcoat in dozens of manifestations, all of which made the catwalk for the finale.

In the snow globe of fashion, one of the fiercest accusations is that clothes are costume. The brocaded extremity—from flat caps to socks—of this collection obviously courted such criticism. But the gilding was washed, sprayed, boiled, and reduced to some kind of bruised honesty. Persuasive.