"This collection is about the evolution of my work," said Jean Paul Gaultier after his brilliant presentation. "I took many of my usual themes and made them lighter, more romantic."

Indeed, Gaultier reworked his well-known aesthetic of ethnic references and humorous role-play into a dazzling procession of scalpel-cut tuxedos, backless trenchcoats, masterfully embroidered evening dresses and sexy satin corsets. Call it nouvelle couture: Luxurious cardigans were held together by a precious thread or two over one shoulder; diamanté slips cascaded over the body, their backs so delicately constructed they gave the impression of imminent disintegration. Tulle handkerchiefs trimmed the hemline of a leg-baring dress, while a giant taffeta trenchcoat provided a dramatic frame for a silk bodysuit embroidered with roses. A thoroughly modern nod to Balenciaga came in the form of a short balloon dress, an imperious gown with a massive cape-train as well as voluminous cotton-and-tulle cages.

"Now that I have been in fashion for 26 years, I can do something that's more delicate, less aggressive," said Gaultier. "I wanted to be suggestive and play with what is visible and what you have to imagine—clothes that give the impression that they are falling off the body, or that occasionally reveal a flash of skin."