Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana used the golden mosaics of Sicily's Cathedral of Monreale as a starting point for their new Fall collection. They presumably made that design decision months ago: As they put it in their press notes, "the art of mosaic-making is a slow and precise one." They never could've known that, in the wake of Pope Benedict XVI's resignation and in the days leading up to the conclave to elect his successor, new shadows would fall on the Church. Amidst headlines in Italian papers this week about sexual intrigue in the Vatican, Dolce & Gabbana sent out a dozen dresses printed with Monreale's famous Byzantine and Venetian mosaics, and just as many lacy frocks in cardinal red. For jewelry, rosaries.

Theirs is a romanticized view of the Catholic Church, to be sure, one far removed from the tawdriness of contemporary scandals. And in terms of fashion, that vision proved compelling here, blessedly less kitsch than last season's. Credit for that goes in part to the rather more earthly herringbones and checks they used for skirtsuits and coats and one errant pair of bloomers. The menswear materials made for a brief interlude, though. Soon the designers were back at the icon worship, cutting lace dresses with the wide sleeves of altar boys' garments, crafting a bustier from altar-chalice gold, and, in a task that might prove as labor-intensive as those twelfth-century mosaics, hand-beading the evening numbers with religious figures. Their fans will raise an amen to that.