"There's a place for jeans and T-shirts, but I remember when people used to take pride in how they put themselves together when they went to work. The question is, how do we do dresses for day?" That was Robert Tagliapietra at his Brooklyn studio last week, discussing the puzzle he and his co-designer, Jeffrey Costello, had tried to solve for Spring. The answer wasn't as obvious at it might sound. Of course, women certainly do want to look like a million bucks on a daily basis, but they also want to be able to leap into a taxi or walk into a meeting without feeling silly. After all, we're not in the era of Joan Holloway.

As it turned out, the duo's resolution of this fashion conundrum made for one of their best collections to date. This was by no means a departure from, but rather a quieting and refinement of what they do best. The excitement came from an array of neutral-hued dresses with a sense of anonymity, a blank-slate quality that still managed to be both interesting and quite chic. Excess and trickery were stripped away, and the focus put on details: the gentle drapes on the hips of a skirt, or a sleeve length you don't often see. There was modernity in the subtle marrying of casual and elegant, like a drop-waisted jersey dress falling off the shoulder just so. A sculpted charcoal top and slim midi skirt had a polished appearance, but could have been made out of sweatshirting; another sculpted top, with shoulders pinched up into points like little cat ears, was a small misstep. The final grouping of looks in a smudgy, painterly print looked like they were trying too hard, too—so strong was the designers' case for plain and pretty.