Backstage, he was insisting he wanted haute couture ateliers declared UNESCO heritage sites, but, in lieu of that unlikely prospect, Giambattista Valli decided to offer his own personal ABC of couture, everything he'd ever learned in an atelier on one catwalk. It was intended as a reminder of what an invaluably inspirational resource those institutions are. And Valli has a trainee track record in couture, starting with the Roman legend Roberto Capucci, whose austere opulence was echoed in the first outfit, a white crepe cape with flowers trailing over its shoulders.

If that was A, B might be a strapless polka-dotted dress draped to one side and exploding into a puff of fabric at the shoulder (that would represent the Ungaro atelier where Valli once labored). After that, everything was coming up Valli. C might have stood for the hints of Chaos that nibbled at the collection. If you give perfection a bit of a shake, you make it memorable. Like the sheer polka-dotted dress whose embroidered flowers clustered around the shoulders and fell to a random scatter on the skirt. Or the linear black sequined gown that was clasped at the throat by a crumpled sheet of silver. (Luigi Scialanga's jewelry has always been an exquisite complement to Valli's clothes.) A sleeveless crocodile top had a waist that was cinched into a peplum flare over a white lace pencil skirt. The visible underwear was black. There was something Roman bourgeois but memorably twisted about such an idea.

Valli mentioned Ava Gardner to one guest who detected a hint of old Hollywood glamour in his eveningwear. The spitfire actress could undoubtedly have animated his strapless, wide-skirted billow of floral mousseline, but the columns of silk with draped shoulders were more evocative of the elegance of Adrian. At the same time, they pointed to Valli's own mastery of couture's ABCs.