As a designer—and as a dresser—Rachel Roy likes a flourish: puff sleeves, ruffled necklines, embroideries. This season, with weekend trips with her daughters to the MoMA for inspiration, there wasn't a blank canvas in her collection. A boatneck A-line dress and boxy, zip-front coat came in a silk photo-printed with delicate pastel watercolors. The front of a narrow sheath was a patchworked collage of multicolored netting. And one softly shirred, sexy chiffon number in shades of chartreuse, steely gray, and black evoked a Rothko painting.

"But it's about balance, too," said Roy, who is quietly proving that, despite her busy social calendar, she should no longer be considered a socialite designer. "Who wants to be girly all the time?" So there were also masculine elements, such as full-legged upholstery plaid pants or, more subtly, tough chain-link belts accentuating the waist of a fitted dress and the neckline of a plunge-front tank. In the end, though, Roy can't resist a feminine detail. That boyish black-on-creamy-white plaid? It also appeared as a knee-length dress dolled up in sequins. But then, with fashion moving in a more polished, pulled-together direction, her natural instincts look to be spot on.