New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand occupied the exact spot today where Nicki Minaj sat a season ago. That says something about fashion's range but also about Carolina Herrera, whose red-carpet dresses are a longtime favorite of Renée Zellweger but have also recently found favor with none other than her Royal Gaga-ness.

Certainly, there was range on today's runway. Herrera began in an uncharacteristically dark rhapsody of navy and black day looks, before achieving liftoff into serious ball skirts. Herrera said she had reality on her mind. Sure, that word is relative, but for those who share Herrera's rarefied universe, she offered a form of functional luxury. It meant the casual cool of a soft, robelike coat made to wear over a gown. It meant the speedy glamour (for the elegant but time-starved) of a broadtail and knit sweatshirt over a silver beaded pencil skirt. Add the little wedge booties worn with every look, and things get speedier still.

But one of Herrera's biggest ideas for Fall inched toward the other end of the spectrum: a cropped—almost chopped, really—top or jacket that was meant to create an elongated silhouette. The shape did its work with lean pencil skirts and gowns, though it couldn't save a hefty woolen ball skirt—an idea that probably seems genius only for the few hours that you shiver through a gala on a wintry night. Another idea that worked better in theory was the pop collage print made for Herrera by English print designer Joe Duke, which, if you looked closely, included her daughter Carolina Jr.'s lovely visage. Even range has its limits.