It was a fashion spectacle to end all spectacles. To celebrate his 40th anniversary in business, Ralph Lauren staged an extraordinarily lavish runway show and black-tie after-party in the Central Park Conservatory Saturday night. And it wasn't only celebrities or moguls—everyone from Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman to Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Sawyer to Mayor Michael Bloomberg—who came out to support him. His designer peers—Vera and Carolina and Diane and Donna—did, too. Afterward, Karan joked, "I'll tell you what I'm not going to do: After that, I'm not going to have a show!"

As for the clothes, Lauren said, "I drew upon everything I ever loved, and that was it." He touched upon many of his best-known signatures, including haberdashery, equestrian themes, and Anglophilia, but this wasn't a greatest-hits collection—there's a Rizzoli book coming out next month that will cover all that. The show started in black and white: a ruffle-hemmed gown cut higher in the front to flash sexy fishnets and worn with a picture hat straight out of My Fair Lady, followed by a man's re-proportioned houndstooth jacket, waistcoat, and full-leg pants. From there, the designer worked his way through exuberantly colorful floral-print silk-georgette evening dresses and equally vibrant jockey wear. Before finishing with a red-carpet stunner in swagged silver chain and tulle, he sent out a group of taffeta dresses in bold primaries that stood out for their simplicity.

When all 72 looks had come and gone, a tuxedoed Lauren took an emotional stroll down the runway, greeting well-wishers and drawing wife Ricky to his side. The scene was accompanied by a standing ovation and Frank Sinatra's The Best Is Yet to Come. And to prove it, the painted backdrop parted to reveal a candlelit garden with tables for 400 guests. Hollywood couldn't have executed a grander, more cinematic moment.