A stage set with two dozen young women seated in Emmanuelle peacock chairs and a soundtrack sampled from Barry White: Oh, baby, we're back in the seventies. But Veronique Branquinho's focus is hardly on soft-focus erotica; instead, she's thinking about the smart girl at the party, who exudes smoldering self-possession from the corner of the room.

This season, the Branquinho girl is projecting her reserved good taste from behind a curtain of long, pretty, blow-dried hair. She has a knack—maddening to her more showy competitors—for choosing understated pieces that are just right. She'll pick out a light tweed jacket and put it with a soft, romantic skirt and boots, or look fantastic just by wearing a slinky, striped knit and slender pants—and winding a long silk scarf round her neck. She's also one of the first to realize that a long skirt is a great way to go at this particular moment. Day or night, Branquinho has many ideas along those lines—from wrap jersey dresses to full-length halter gowns—guaranteed to turn heads without ever shrieking for attention.