For Spring inspiration, Vera Wang looked to ancient Rome—an apt metaphor, some might say, for modern-day New York. She's among the most intellectual of American designers, but what got her going was probably less the similarities between the two societies than the fluid ease of the earlier epoch's clothes—not to mention the gilt and bullion. Either way, this finely wrought collection deserves plenty of praise.

Reimagining the toga for today, Wang showed an elegant, asymmetrical navy silk day dress; a limpid jersey tunic worn with soft, washed crepe de chine pants; and graceful cashmere knits with flyaway chiffon panels at the sides or back. The full, shin-length skirts were the only things here that didn't look Roman, or right.

Wang has a vibrant sense of color. Metallic blue brushstrokes vibrated across an olive green duchesse satin wrap coat, and a peplum jacket and asymmetrical skirt in the same fabric were tie-dyed to resemble clouds. Evening looks ranged from a jeweled-bib chiton jersey gown that blousoned at the waist to a deceptively simple coppery column in which the volume and drama were in the back. A languid micro-pleated gown in ivory looked like an ode to fashion's original interpreter of the ancients, Madame Grès.

The theme could've proven costumey—remember last season's babushkas?—but it wasn't. It was Wang at her romantic best.