Last season Vera Wang went through the looking glass, showing an Alice in Wonderland-inspired collection that, though lovely, didn't have a firm grasp on the real-life needs of women. The designer hasn't quite planted her feet on terra firma for Fall: The soaring arches of cathedrals provided the show's architectural photo print, and, more crucially, there were some of the same troubling issues with transparency. But there were other indications here that she'd absorbed the criticisms and was moving on.

The show started on a promising note. Look 2 included an oversize nude wool parka with a detachable hood and great-looking tailored flare pants—definitely a first chez Wang. And there was more cool, creative outerwear later on, in the form of sleeveless jackets with swooping raccoon collars—just the things to wear over cashmere sweaters when the weather starts to turn cold. A sleeveless sheath in a steely gray jacquard, meanwhile, looked right up the alley of Oscar nominee Viola Davis, who sat in the front row.

What worked less well were the sheer dresses, be they in nude net lace or vault-print silk chiffon. The peplums the designer put on top of them just didn't lower the risqué factor far enough. Wang is a proven problem solver (see any number of the beautiful bridal gowns she's designed over the years). She should tap into that store of knowledge in her next ready-to-wear collection.