"Liberty and freedom!" declared Alberta Ferretti backstage at her pretty spring collection. No, she hadn't been taking notes from a presidential candidate's speechwriter; the mantra reflected her belief that "fashion is a form of freedom … [and] the new lightness reflects a liberation of the mind."

In runway terms, this translated into a Sarah Jessica Parker-esque layering of eclectic elements—a striped matelot sweater with a bell skirt, a tight rib-silk Victorian or rajah jacket with Capri pants—in off-key but surprisingly charming color combinations (pansy purple and teal; mint with scarlet and Parma violet). Ferretti's feel for the season's breezy new proportions led her to layer her ravishing signature chiffon dresses (often laser-cut to evoke the elaborately slashed doublets of Elizabethan courtiers) over voluminous puffball skirts in stiff faille, so that her hemlines billowed like up-ended mushroom clouds.

Keira Knightley might have been contending with SJP as Ferretti's muse of the season, for there was a Pirates of the Caribbean spirit to the décolleté milkmaid dresses and smocked A-line bodices, and to the deliberately handcrafted effects. Patchworks of different-colored chiffon were sewn together to create elaborate evening gowns; other dresses featured panels seemingly held in place with a cross-lacing of plaited chiffon ties—bearing the saucy promise of instant disintegration in a light breeze on the high seas.