The haughty glamour of the high hairdo, beautifully finished with a black bow and studded with a sparkling jewel, has returned as news to the Parisian runway at Christian Lacroix. The designer chose that very proper, very Alexandre de Paris idea of coiffure to set the tone for a collection that led his audience, as always, into a personal fantasia of what couture can mean in modern times.

That elegant device played with spring fashion’s fifties nostalgia and simultaneously anchored the meltingly pretty, astonishingly colorful outfits only Lacroix can assemble. Case in point: his first look, a turquoise duchesse-satin swing coat over a brilliant pink chiffon waterfall dress, worn with pink opaque tights and red sandals. It’s a complicated, eye-sockingly vivid aesthetic, for sure, but Lacroix has his mania for fabric, pattern, and historical reference under excellent control. There are reminders of his love of eighteenth-century corseting built into bodices, which sometimes come with delicate jeweled necklaces, spilling over the shoulders. It all made for a half hour of wondrous revelations in the form of gorgeous coats, wispy lace dresses, and multihued chiffon gowns that almost defy description.

Lacroix’s version of eclectic bohemian romance—and his talent as a colorist—runs to such extremes as an orange, pink, and red dress, assembled from drifts of plissé chiffon and organdy, tied with a peacock-blue bow at the waist, and scattered with silver sequins. He undercuts the richness with a sense of throwaway lightness that makes it modern and accessible. Occasionally he strays with a few too many theatrical effects, and his magic may seem familiar at times. But, in a shrinking field, Lacroix’s mastery of his métier is a pleasure to behold.