Screeeeech! John Galliano opened his Christian Dior show with the sound of a car revving up and driving off. Was this indicative of a gear change at the house of Dior? While there has been praise lavished on the feats of imagination Galliano conjures for couture, the ready-to-wear hasn't hit the mark, of late. Recent collections have featured some—or more likely all—of the following: rubber fetish suits under evening dresses, scarily high S&M platforms, and lamé rockabilly suits that looked made for a 400-pound Elvis impersonator, all topped off with makeup that was one part kabuki, one part Baby Jane Hudson.

Galliano changed tactics this season. This collection was a riposte to his critics: You want clothes? I'll give you clothes. And as if to underscore that his time at Dior has produced wearable pieces, he proceeded to revive most of them. There were the curvy suits, now recast in bouclé and denim, the Indian-embroidered bloused minidresses, the Tibetan fur vests, the anime/cartoon Dior-logo tees, and multiple variations on his trademark fluttery bias-cut dresses. And not one of the bags he showed with each and every look really stood out. Most looked mundane, minor reworkings of Dior's famous saddle style. In the end, this retrospective simply became retro—a mish-mash mix of old references masquerading as something new.

It's never easy to walk the line between runway and reality. Too much of the former and you're living in a dream world; too much of the latter and what's on the catwalk registers as routine. Galliano has navigated beautifully between those two territories before. He needs to do so again—otherwise he's simply speeding along on the road to nowhere.