"I wanted to take couture elements, like bows and flowers, but do them in a spontaneous, modern, comfortable way," explained Martine Sitbon. Hardly the torturously intellectual talk of a respected French modernist, but then this is Paris, Spring 2004, and designers everywhere are lightening up their acts.

Sitbon was no exception. For a section of clothes made from parachute silk, she raided the colors from the makeup counter—powdery blush, baby blue, a highlight of lime, lipstick magenta. But while the sweatshirts, ruched-sleeved parkas, and ice-skating skirts looked pretty, easy, and undemanding, some of the repetitive dresses did not: Loose cummerbunds bulked up the hips and large silk flowers were plonked on thighs, a little too spontaneously. Will the Sitbon customer really want to wear dresses so sugary sweet they resembled upside-down tulips? Will even her die-hard fans snap up the aprons covered in chiffon blooms?

Fear not, all you Sitbon lovers. Her alternative—a play on masculine/feminine tailoring—gave the collection balance and rescued it from the saccharine realms of cotton-candy couture. Crisp white frock coats, backless waistcoats, and wide cream trousers looked smart, imaginative, and sexy, as did the last few slithery black satin sheaths with twisted velvet straps—just the sort of strong signature pieces that her customers know and love.