Sophie Théallet is living the American dream: The Brooklyn-based French expatriate and CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award finalist is one of Michelle Obama's Chosen Ones. "The First Lady has helped my name to be known," the designer modestly admitted a few days ago. That kind of attention comes with a lot of pressure, though, and today it sometimes felt that she was too conscious of being watched rather than relying fully on her instinct.

The show opened with a bang. Eugenia Mandzhieva—in a liquid chocolate satin gown with print trim and a trailing sash—had us at hello. What followed was a collection that swung back and forth between romantic Gallicisms and more pragmatic American pieces. "I try to make beautiful and functional clothes that a woman can work and travel in," Théallet explained—and she delivered with apparently simple pieces, like shirtdresses and wrap dresses, that were exquisitely finished. Dressmaker details like smocking and pleating are what Théallet is known for, and they're what make you fall, coup de foudre, in love with a dress.

Théallet trod some familiar ground this season, however, and what stood out among the more evergreen silhouettes were the dressier pieces. Draped, haltered, and closed with lingerie buttons, some of them snaked around the body with a sari's embrace while others seemed to drip from it. Who but a Frenchwoman could have designed such seductions?