A cleaner, minimalist setting for Elie Saab's Spring couture made a welcome change: The fancy gold ormolu of the Grand Hotel (his usual venue) coupled with all those chiffons and Swarovski crystals could feel suffocating. This season, the more modern framework of the Palais de Tokyo showcased some of his better points, starting with a palette of pale beige to nude and dusty, barely there tints of violet, pastel blue, and oyster. As a Lebanese designer with a big business in Beirut and Paris, you'd think Saab might have fewer worries about sales, but rumor has it that Middle Eastern consumers are also exhibiting caution, so perhaps the relatively restrained colors reflect that.

It was, of course, eveningwear as usual (the world hasn't changed that much), this time with a smattering of obi belts and a slight sense of Japanese styling inserted here and there. That produced some pretty rear views, as when bows were planted at the base of bare backs and kimono-sleeved negligee coats were shrugged on as cover-ups. Highly worked fabrics like brocade and cloque and deeply textured 3-D chiffon appliqués gave a bit of hefty upholstering to some silhouettes (the pannier hip padding on a couple of pieces only added to the borderline mother-of-the-bride effects). Still, among the 49 looks, there were plenty of traditional red-carpet gowns that could end up on choice rails for Oscar attendees.