"I wanted to focus on the top, on the bosom," said a smiling Valentino backstage before his haute couture show. "I want the bosom almost out. The client, she loves this sort of look. In a certain way it feels less ladylike, less grande dame."

With a front row featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Sheryl Crow, and Mario Testino, the Roman couturier needn't have worried about attracting a dowdy demographic. And this collection, based on the Empire line and using light-as-air fabrics such as waffled organza, cloqué charmeuse and cashmere voile, felt pleasantly young and vibrant. A red wool Empire jumpsuit came with filmy gauze across the bust (which, of course, could be covered up with a matching cardigan). An ivory cashmere Empire-waist coat sat regally over a bone chiffon cocktail dress with sequin embroidery. A neat white double-wool suit featured top-stitching arcing its way just below the breasts.

Then there were the prints—mostly bold florals in shades of green or softest pink. A pale-green chiffon cocktail dress featured a peony print, while a long white silk crepe dress with an embroidered lace floral motif was worn with a matching micro bolero. Nan Kempner and her five gal pals let out a collective "ooooh" at look 48: model Dewi in a floor-length, long-sleeve green dress with a red floral print and full pleated folds at the back. Oh, and cut very low at the bust.