"It was a lot of McQueen, all in one big collection." Thus spake the designer after a performance that came across as a positioning statement—in more ways than one. The presentation summed up all his experience in sharp tailoring, spectacular romantic dresses, couture richness, and downright showmanship. And, with every look laid out on a giant chessboard, it couldn't help but suggest a metaphor for the workings of the fashion industry.

The chess device allowed McQueen to redo all his greatest moments, but in a prettier, lighter, more accessible way. He used the 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock to work a girlish Edwardian theme, starting with tiny sailor jackets, school blazers, ticking-striped shirts, and gray knee-length shorts, then adding lovely white lace blouses and dresses. From there, it was onto the eighteenth century, in the form of precious flower-embroidered jackets over candy-striped puffball skirts, and dreamy floral chiffon dresses floating from Empire bodices.

By the time the 36 models had taken up their positions, reminders of all McQueen's past signatures and silhouettes were in place: the Savile Row-sharp tail coats; richly embroidered Japanese kimonos; streamlined sci-fi bodysuits; rigid molded corsets; and stiff, flounced godet skirts. En masse, it was very impressive. And even if this comprehensive résumé didn't move his game along, most of the ideas had benefited from the designer's revisions. They looked even better second time around: more feminine, less aggressive, and much more desirable. Checkmate!