The soundtrack from Downton Abbey came over the loudspeaker at Ralph Lauren and you could sense a crowd worn down from a long week of runway shows perking up. The TV program has become such a phenomenon that you half-knew this moment would be coming sooner or later, and it was no shocker to see it arrive at Ralph. Still, hunting plaids aside, the references to World War I England weren't all that literal in this collection.

For example, the first part of the show was devoted to boy-for-girl suits. Downton's Lady Mary was rather forward-looking in her thinking, but you never saw her wearing pants. (It would take another several years for the modernizing influence of Coco Chanel to assert itself in Yorkshire, no doubt.) If anything, this felt like Lauren revisiting and reworking his own oeuvre. The trip down memory lane wasn't one of the designer's blockbusters, but it produced some strong outerwear, from a houndstooth greatcoat to a glen plaid double-breasted style. Among the many suits on display, a burgundy silk velvet three-piecer had the most snap.

The after-dark portion of the collection—a study in gold and black, with a pair of bright fuchsia satin gowns injected into the mix—felt quite different from where we'd started out. Here, the Roaring Twenties were an obvious influence on a beaded flapper number and black column dresses picked out in gold and platinum Art Deco embroideries. Nonetheless, the evening looks as a whole felt modern.