Bows and lace, fragile-shouldered suits, sweet cocktail dresses, and the gorgeousness of grand-occasion evenings: these are the eternal province of Valentino Garavani. For spring, he decided to give all that with the extra oomph of sex. To a soundtrack of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” mixed with Missy Elliott, the models worked the runway with frizzed-out seventies hair, dark-lidded eyes, and an attitude of touch-me-if-you-dare narcissism.

Valentino undercut the traditional, decorative propriety of his look with a new emphasis on nudity—or, at any rate, the naughty suggestion thereof. Peachy lace with a bustier of flowers opened the show, giving way to a series of suits, often redefined as jackets or coats over sheer chiffon or lingerie satin. While running through the gamut of day and night options, he trained the spotlight on the décolleté, strategically placing bows just there, swooping a neckline under a lace brassière, or drawing the eye upward with abbreviated boleros.

The classic little black cocktail dress also advanced on the scene with erotic intent, its frilly front-on appearance belied by sheer panels of black lace running along its flanks. In the midst of all this, there were old-time couture-show conventions that Valentino still observes—like devoting a section to flowered silk dresses—which are dispensable anachronisms. At the same time, there’s something great (and increasingly rare) about seeing a master revel in the pleasure of glorifying femininity.