A Marc Jacobs woman is such a particular creature that even the designer himself concedes that his men just can't compete. "They seem so naive and innocent beside the girls," he said after his latest show for his second line, Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Even so, the cheerful, uncomplicated teens who once determined the look of the line have moved on. There was a more complex life to these clothes than in seasons past, evident in details like the striped lining revealed by a turned-down sneaker or the buckle on the hem of a sweatpant cropped just below the knee (which gave the romantic effect of knee breeches). Marc's fixation on the denizens of the Mudd Club, where he whiled away his teens, has been so well exercised in previous collections that all the early-eighties references seemed like old friends—especially the appropriation of the high-school formal in the shawl-collared poplin blazer (sported with jeans), the tuxedo shirt with skinny black tie, or the sharkskin tuxedo pants that showed up with a fitted tartan jacket, bondage straps a-dangling. A gray tuxedo jacket had New Wave studs trailing down its lapels; another in olive-drab twill had the requisite Army-surplus reference (especially in combo with tartan pants).

There was nothing groundbreaking, but what makes it new, or at least interesting, season after season is the way Jacobs uses fashion to explore an attachment to the style totems of his youth—an attachment that seems to deepen with the passage of time. Quite poignant, actually.