What makes a good Rodarte collection? The best of them tend to work like Cornell boxes, inviting you to enter into a private, handmade dreamworld, the beauty of which you can access, even if the dream itself remains obscure. The accessibility is key, though: Laura and Kate Mulleavy have proven themselves to be designers who require some tethering. Happily, the latest Rodarte collection had all the makings of excellence, finding the Mulleavys once again scavenging through their shared landscape of memory and translating that raw material into appealing, realistic clothes, albeit ones with an otherworldly aspect.

Take, for example, the smocked dresses that appeared early at today's show. The smocking unavoidably connoted childhood—is there a woman who doesn't recall having a smocked special-occasion dress as a girl?—but the Mulleavys deployed the technique in a variety of grown-up silhouettes. The crochet on various tops was used to similar ends, and though the look ran to the quirky, it was brought down to earth when paired with matter-of-fact pieces like this collection's turtlenecks, peplum tanks, and paper-bag-waist pants. The standout looks here, meanwhile, managed to strike both a practical and a fanciful tone at once: These, of course, were the glitter-covered parkas, sturdy-looking things with shearling collars and so much sparkle. A certain kind of girl is going to save all her pennies for one of those coats, and wear it until all the glitter has worn off, years hence. And she may pine, as well, for the gold-spattered gowns made from wrapped swathes of black chiffon and velvet, the best-looking eveningwear the Mulleavys have produced in some time.

There were some looks here that didn't convince. Some of the patchwork gowns, for instance, seemed pretty de trop. And with all due respect to fans of Star Wars (for they are legion), the use of giant Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 prints in the final passage of gowns just seemed silly. On the other hand, those gowns made for great Instagram bait, which may have been the point. Laura and Kate Mulleavy may occupy a universe unto themselves, but they're not naïfs, and certainly no dummies.