The first look out, a color-blocked and belted maillot worn by a model who was nothing but legs, suggested that things might go in a bold new direction chez de la Renta this season. But that short, sharp opening salvo was quickly followed by more familiar Oscar-isms: the crisp white blouse with the dirndl skirt, the soft-structure pantsuit, the navy or black cocktail sheath—much of it accessorized with brooches, multistrand necklaces, and drop earrings. Among the show's most compelling pieces were Coco Rocha's white coat with super-graphic navy harlequin embroidery and her strapless peplum gown made from the same high-contrast materials. There were also plenty of luxurious fabrics to swoon over, such as the gray, blue, and silver brocade of a short-sleeve sway-back coat, or the painterly floral print of a silk faille strapless gown.

Everything was perfectly beautiful, maybe a bit too much so. You wanted to see de la Renta loosen up, play more to the J.Lo crowd (the pop diva's appearance caused quite a commotion) and less to the ladies who lunch. After all, he doesn't have to work for the latter's devotion; he owns it. The first step is to pare back on some of the heavy jewelry and the second is to leave the weekend bags in the showroom. That way, the clothes can do the talking.