The setting and the preliminaries were more akin to a triumphal French state occasion than a fashion show, as a veritable who's who of Parisian society, gasping and gossiping, filed in to get their first look at the soaring nineteenth-century glass-and-steel splendor of the newly renovated Grand Palais. In a way, they had gathered there for a ritual steeped in a sense of national pride: the Christian Dior spring collection, an event garlanded with the kind of pomp and power only the French can bestow upon the business of fashion.

Was that why John Galliano was on his best behavior? No silly pranks, breakneck platforms, scary makeup, or crazy, colliding references this season. Instead, what he proposed was a businesslike program for maximizing the potential of a single idea in his last couture collection: the black-lace-over-nude dress that Kate Moss wore this summer to the CFDA Awards.

That one idea spun out through short dresses, drapier than the corseted original, and then in every possible garment and fabric treatment, from jackets and coats to jeans and, finally, a bustier bikini. Having wrung the last possible drop of inspiration out of the lace, Galliano moved on to big, bubbly organza blouses and to playing about with rainbows of degraded pinks—nude to fuchsia or nude to orange—to tinge the hems of short dresses and airy gowns and vary the monotony of all that flesh-colored floatiness.

But of course, there was another unmissable footnote to this thoroughly commercial plan. That, of course, is the competition-whacking Dior saddle bag—now displaying a softness that cleverly demonstrates its ability to adapt to fashion's every twist and turn.