"Back home to Santa Cruz," Laura Mulleavy said after the Rodarte show this afternoon. And this from her sister Kate: "We always knew we'd do a collection about where we grew up." In a sense, every show that the Rodarte girls have put on has been personal. They'll probably still be DIY-ing in their bedroom when they're old and gray.

Today's set, Laura explained, was a riff on Santa Cruz's boardwalk, the circular pathway the models walked a flat facsimile of its famous Giant Dipper roller coaster. But the clothes are more a product of the Mulleavys' imaginations and their fond memories of their younger days than anything you'll see walking around the California beach town.

Where you come down on the collection will have a lot to do with how nostalgic you are for your own youth—that and your tolerance for fashions of the late eighties. The era happens to be one of this reporter's sweet spots, which made the tie-dye gowns with the strange double-faced foam shoulder straps and bibs that arrived in the middle of the show pretty irresistible. The best thing about the collection, they were actually silk prints—elevated, not ersatz, DIY.

Acid-wash silk was a harder sell, and the crystals studding the striped alpaca sweater of a sweater-skirt combo were more crafty than couture. That look triggered some nostalgia of its own for a spiderwebby crochet sweater dress from Fall 2008 that's included in the Met's upcoming punk exhibition. Since that memorable collection, the Mulleavys have faced all sorts of pressures to commercialize, and resisted most of them. Bare hip bones jutting between bodysuits and low-slung pants erred on the indulgent side, even if the jackets they came with had a tough, boxy cool. You start to worry that they're designing themselves into a corner.