If Narciso Rodriguez ventured into futuristic-warrior-woman territory last season, Spring found him embracing his softer side. Ironically, it made for a stronger collection. The vibe was still plenty sexy: A killer sheath color-blocked from jute linen canvas and black silk jacquard had front-row star Jessica Alba's name written all over it. A pair of shifts, one in white, the other pink, came with graphic cutouts on the upper back, while another dress was essentially a mesh tank with strategically placed ovals of printed fuchsia silk. All three were revealing without being vulgar, a balance other designers have had some difficulty achieving this season.

But Rodriguez also loosened up the silhouette dramatically, letting the air in, so to speak, on everything from a white silk, linen, and organza bubble dress to a silk mud-cloth coat. Both were stitched together in back like pieces of a geometric puzzle, creating a three-dimensionality that was equal parts arty and easy. The show ended with a trio of short-in-front, long-in-back tent dresses that took this concept to the extreme. Chic, modern propositions for a black-tie evening, they billowed dramatically behind the models in the runway breeze.

As for that burning question—what will Michelle Obama wear?—our bet is on a deceptively simple and, yes, sleeveless natural linen dress. Its subtle sophistication shows Rodriguez in peak form.