Oscar de la Renta lists nine design assistants by name on his program notes. Can you think of another big name in fashion who does that? We can't; they don't exist. The designer and his team had a good night. To start off with, de la Renta showed crisp, charcoal flannel pinstripes. Very polished, they had a slightly masculine air about them that felt new. But there's never only one story chez Oscar. He also liked black leather this season—another surprise—and used it for wide-leg trousers, a sexy pencil skirt with a fluted hem, and, most dramatically, a shawl-collar coat with a graceful A-line swing. For the woman who prefers her ODLR with a little less bite—a houndstooth skirtsuit. Which sounds straightforward enough, except for the fact that it was overlaid with cardinal red guipure lace.

Plenty of choices, as usual, but the audience seemed to make theirs when a sleeveless, knee-length dress patchworked from wide stripes of bouclé jacquard, each color embroidered in a different motif, glided onto the runway. It was utterly simple and yet completely divine. You could sense the "I want that one" energy in the room.

We'll likely be hearing quite a lot about Charles James and his ball gowns with the exhibition opening at the Costume Institute this spring, but there's no debate who the current master is. De la Renta had some real beauties in this collection. Our favorites came in lilac pink silk duchesse with a burgundy velvet bustier and in strapless geranium red silk faille accented with gold sequins and cord embroidery. Slightly shorter in the front than in the back, they flashed a few inches of ankle. An Oscar for an Oscar nominee, anyone?