Vera Wang is having a moment. She won the CFDA award in June. Her resort collection, which combined the American sensibility of Claire McCardell with the vibrant palette of Matisse, earned raves from buyers and editors alike. And she continued that momentum by introducing a collection in a similar vein for spring. This time, she injected a new, raw edge into the formula, courtesy of the HBO frontier drama Deadwood. "The idea was to do primitive," said Wang backstage. "Matisse's models dressed not unlike the female characters on that show."

Of course, Wang's salopettes, farmers shirts, and "nightgowns" looked a little too rich for life on the Great Plains. That's thanks, in part, to the iridescent chiffons, brocades, taffetas, and duchesse satins she used for evening and, more surprisingly, for day. She cut and draped those fabrics like a modern Charles James (a designer known for lush, elegantly structured gowns, to whom some audience members compared her), creating tops, skirts, and dresses that puffed around the body without ever feeling bulky. Among the many standouts were an electric-blue smock blouse and navy dirndl skirt, a black off-the-shoulder number, which was shown with flats (as were most of her longer silhouettes), and a red silk apron dress with an elasticized hem. Jackets also had volume, especially those that were fuller on top and gathered near the bottom—as if they were pulled on upside down. Gritty, raffia sashes and the occasional sturdy leather belt gave the collection a touch of downtown, if not of South Dakota, but it's bound to be a hit everywhere.