For the second season in a row, Vera Wang showed in the intimate confines of her Mercer Street store, and you didn't need to read the name on the door to know whose designs these were. Crystal necklaces, densely embroidered necklines, tulle and net overlays—all the Vera signatures were here. But something was different: Call it a sense of ease, or a dressed-down (relatively speaking, of course) casualness that looked new. It came across early on thanks to a loose-fitting black crepe de chine jumpsuit topped by an incredible beaded spiderweb necklace, and it continued throughout the show via the biker shorts that she paired with everything from a basketball tee and organza skirt combo to a metallic gauze halter tank and poufy ballerina skirt. For the client who isn't going anywhere near a pair of shorts—despite evidence to the contrary on this week's runways; their numbers are legion—she showed bias-cut rocker pants or slouchy silk leggings. The collection pretty much reflected the way Wang herself dresses: luxe and pulled together but somehow sporty.

All that's not to say the designer abandoned after-dark. A pair of pleated tulle dresses, one mini, the other long, looked ready to party, as did a circular sequin tank dress in shades of midnight blue, blush, and silver. That was one of the show's few shots of color; the others came via the tulip and poppy prints that appeared on the delicate gauze of a hand-smocked tank dress as well as on a coat belted over a jersey tee and Bermuda shorts. But in keeping with the realities of the new economy, Wang smartly decided to toughen up her trademark romantic vision.