After his restrained Dior presentation last Tuesday, you might've assumed that John Galliano would take the audience on one of his wild rides for the label that bears his name. It was something of a surprise, then, when the show opened with a section of white suits. With their hook-and-eye closures and hourglass lines, they looked like the sexpot sisters to their Dior counterparts, but they still seemed intended to send a message about the designer's facility with real clothes.

From that point on, deciphering Galliano's mindset became increasingly complicated. If Dior's eveningwear was calm, tonight's was pitched toward the garish. Liquid jersey in violet, blue, or fuchsia was spliced from hip to thigh with a cartoon-y flower print. Likewise, hand-painted gold chain-mail skirts descended from satiny asymmetric bodices. Softer and prettier were a series of nude chiffons edged with ruffles in a pale floral.

Next came the draped gowns: Splashed with bright sequins or appliquéd with ribbons of gold beads, each one was accessorized by a gargantuan hat. Some of these were fashioned to resemble a leaf or the bow on a birthday present, others to look like a man's fedora. It was hard, finally, to see them as much more than a gimmick.

All of this was set to a soundtrack of songs that referenced frustrated desires. Galliano's great talent has been proven again and again, but this season it seemed curiously fettered.