Big changes at Bill Blass this season. Gone were the drawn-out presentations and runway antics of the past two seasons, replaced by a briskly paced show whose models strode the catwalk at a businesslike clip. It made looking at the clothes much easier, and there was improvement there, as well—a trimmer silhouette, a little more skin, a lighter hand. But despite the improvement, the collection still hasn't found its soul.

Michael Vollbracht, now in his third season as Blass's creative director, opened with a lacy strapless sundress accented with a brown grosgrain ribbon—not earth-shattering, but certainly pretty. Such dresses were the collection's strength, from a demure white piqué A-line dress to refreshingly sexy bra-topped gowns. To his credit, Vollbracht has made Blass a regular on the red carpet in the past year, and this season's crop of telegenic eveningwear will certainly appeal to all-powerful celebrity stylists. But unless they're done young and tongue in cheek, those blocky wool crepe suits with prim cuffs and collars will come off more prissy than polished. Vollbracht is moving in the right direction, but a dose of unbridled passion would add a welcome edge to the house of Blass.