Which to enthuse over first? The amazing flounced cocktail dresses, inspired by a 1958 Balenciaga original and given a fierce modernist chic by the addition of glossy crocodile cummerbunds and high gladiator sandals? The extraordinary gold-buttoned and braided naval jackets, paired with fluid, gorgeously easy sailor pants? Or the incredible glimmering, body-skimming Lesage-beaded jackets and coats?

Whatever the specifics of this superb show, the main point is that Nicolas Ghesquière has turned his hand to making ultra-classy, grown-up clothes. "I wanted it to be more dressy and expensive," he said. "And I was inspired by volume and making things liquid." Result: With its skinny gold-buttoned cardigan jackets and sexy spiral-zippered skirts, unlined blazers and the sort of light, flattering coat you can wear indoors, Balenciaga has navigated itself to a place sophisticated women will adore.

Any lingering questions about the potential breadth of Balenciaga's appeal have now been settled. In the past, Ghesquière's experimental cutting has been at the forefront, sometimes producing extremes that had the air of works in progress—and often overshadowed his equal interest in refining classic Parisian tailoring. Now, with the experiments kept in check, that side of his talent has sailed gloriously into view, producing a consummately balanced collection. The breakthrough seems to have been his decision to delve into the splendors of the Balenciaga archive—and to reabsorb the couture workmanship at his disposal (nimble-fingered lingerie makers for the dresses, Lesage for the beading). "It is true to the patrimony of the house," Ghesquiere said. "And anyway, now I feel more mature."