For Spring, Christian Lacroix finally delivered the thing his ringside fans have been hankering after for ages: a collection that transmitted the fantasy of his haute couture into ready-to-wear. For the first third of this collection, at least, there was everything a young girl could dream of owning from the Lacroix canon: bejeweled toreador pants and capes, boned and beribboned pouf-shouldered dresses, frothy leg-of-mutton-sleeved Edwardiana jackets, sexy bustled skirts, and deliciously light-handed draped chiffon prints. All of that bounced onto the runway liberally strewn with the giant carnation corsages and artfully placed bows every Lacroix lover will recognize as his inimitable signatures.

Quite what has taken Lacroix so long to amp up the energy and polish in his prêt-à-porter is something of a mystery. Whatever's happened, there's apparently been a turnaround in attitude because a personal commitment to design seemed palpable for the first time. For one thing, the quality looked steeply improved. And for another, there was a much stronger handle on how Lacroix's look might be broken down for a young customer, who (for example) would rather wear a richly detailed tulle-shouldered corseted vest with a pair of slouchy pants than keep it strictly for some formal event. That the collection lost it slightly in the eveningwear among an overload of printed, draped mini dance dresses was a shame, but what Lacroix started on the runway this season was encouraging. He should take it full-throttle next time.