When shopping for a trapeze dress next season, you could do worse than seek out Giambattista Valli. Of the many designers who latched onto this new-again shape, he did it with the most finesse. To his critics, there's an old-fashioned lack of serious daywear—the kind that a well-remunerated woman might sport to a board meeting—in Valli's runway shows. To his fans, however, the couturelike finish of his big-occasion clothes—which ranged from egg-shaped frocks to pannier dresses for spring—is beyond reproach.

Take, they might argue, the lifelike roses that decorated one short black dress. Inspired by the abstract expressionist Alberto Burri, Valli burned their edges, so that they rustled like fallen leaves as they glided down the runway. "I wanted to portray an intellectual beauty," he said. And so, along those same lines, he requested permission from the Calder Foundation to reprint one of the artist's mobile paintings for an aptly airy bubble skirt that he paired with a collarless, belted jacket. And from art benefactress Peggy Guggenheim, he cribbed rococo sunglasses and pagoda hats.

The results skewed more precious than intellectual, but there was no quibbling with the beauty of Valli's mille-feuille organza meringues. If they will need a few extra inches added to their hems to make them red-carpet safe for the likes of Katie Holmes and Victoria Beckham, his front-row guests, that's a minor complaint and one easily solved by this technically accomplished designer.