Hard times. The Great Recession we're all living through got Ralph Lauren thinking about American resiliency. "I am inspired by the character of the worker, the farmer, the cowboy, the pioneer women of the prairies," he wrote in his program notes. So in place of the polo fields or any of his other tony stomping grounds, Lauren took us back to the dust bowl for Spring. Models in newsboy caps wore faded and torn oversize jeans with blue work shirts; patchwork overalls; nightshirts in mattress-ticking stripes; or sweet calico print dresses with white ankle socks and oxfords with heels.

It was cinematic, like most of Lauren's collections. And it goes without saying that his vision is a romanticized one: Henry Fonda's character in The Grapes of Wrath didn't carry a lizard-skin bag. In fact, the show played like a rags-to-riches tale, a story line dear to the designer's heart. After a few white cotton organdy dresses and some thirties-esque suits—think pinstriped three-pieces with cropped and gathered pants or a boxy d.b. with fuller trousers—the work jackets and carpenter pants reappeared in blue ombré silk charmeuse, the nightshirts came striped with beads, and the overalls were transformed into a floor-grazing lamé dress. A pair of evening jeans, completely covered in silvery beads save for the fraying holes, took the concept to the limit.

When Lauren came out for his bow, it was to the tune of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." He'll see the other side of this recession—no one works harder than he does; he's the great American brand.