When Karen Elson walked out in her first look at Marchesa—a flapper-y number with swingy beaded fringe—you could have mistaken it for something she picked up at a great vintage shop. It was an early indication that, for their first runway show since, well, their first-ever five years ago, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig were opting for a slightly more earthbound approach than usual.

That's not to say there wasn't drama here. You could still "ooh" and "aah" over the designers' skill at sculpting horsehair and tulle, and a couple of final gowns had skirts that brushed over the front row's pedicures. But the change of format from models standing like dolls on museum-style pedestals to walking on a runway—in wedges, no less—seemed to add a dose of reality, a welcome shift. All that exquisitry can get exhausting, and you've seen it so many times here, it just feels worn.

Some of the standouts in this collection came when all that ebbed away and you could take a breath, as with the simple, unembellished, poet-sleeved chiffon dress that veiled the silver beading beneath. But the major statement was a colorful fish embroidery sparked by the Russian artist Ilya Repin's painting Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom, and fringe inspired by Ernst Haeckel's drawings of jellyfish. The supremely elegant last look on Karolina Kurkova was mermaidlike in its swoops of fringe. Its gravity-defying illusion was made possible by a fine nude tulle. Perhaps it's not enough to drop jaws; sometimes, simply enticing and intriguing is much chicer.