Martin Margiela's best-kept secret—apart from his Mr. Invisible image—is that he is one of the finest tailors and cutters working today. Reading between the lines, that part of his message was meant to be played up a bit more for spring. Caped silhouettes, sharp jackets, high-waisted pants, sexily original jersey dresses—all these things are regularly available in stores, but come show time, it's usually the high-concept experimentalism (like last season's clothes made out of furnishings) that gets the airplay. This time, he toned it down—apart, that is, from the distraction of linebacker padded shoulders, nude body stockings, and that top-ten most woman-annoying garment, the one-legged trouser-skirt.

It's fair to say, too, that there was an Americana stars-and-stripes theme worked into the show, though nothing that amounted to a dominating intellectual thrust. Instead, in the course of an unusually straight-up runway presentation, aficionados could pick off the wearables in plain view. They were sensuous cape T-shirts over tailored pants; jersey dresses, cleverly engineered from concentrically striped target-circles to flow and drape every which way; and precision-cut variations on men's-for-women tailoring. Plastic and Lucite wedges, a necklace strung together from aviator sunglass lenses, and a huge black shiny star cummerbund kept the nutty-cool edge, but mainly this show seemed to be focused on lifting Margiela out of the marginal.