"In times like these, the world needs sweeter things," said Christian Lacroix, a man who makes it his duty to stand up for romance, imagination, color and femininity. From the first charming moment—his girls stepped out wearing quirkily glamorous tulle headpieces in pink, yellow, eau de nil and white—it was apparent that the aesthetic Lacroix has been honing since he first burst on the scene in the '80s has come into its own again.

The difference now is that his signature sculpting (tiny 18th-century peplum jackets) and collaging (myriad colors, laces, satin, organza, slubby silks, chiffon) have lost their former costumey stiffness. There's a softer modernity in this collection, in such pieces as a sprigged coat that came with a raw edge and a single sleeve, like an offhandedly reclaimed antique, or a sensational pink coat that opened to reveal a shimmy of a spangled tunic as easy as a T-shirt.

Some of the silhouettes—like his prettiest belled short skirts—were reminiscent of that '80s starting point. But Lacroix has moved on, and now his clothes relate to a younger, easier way of dressing. At the end of the show, the audience gave the designer an ovation to recognize a talent once more at the height of its powers.