At his summer retreat, Giambattista Valli saw not a second of the Olympics, but his collection today had a timely, trim athleticism. It was hugely advantageous for the designer, because it gave his show a momentum that is occasionally lost in the frills and furbelows that have shaped his work in the past. Here, the dressy but sporty proportion of a trim tank and pencil skirt, or the graphic quality of a black body paired with high-waisted white culottes brought new energy.

Also reenergized: the designer's girl/boy thing. The show opened with a call and response between male and female—a sleeveless, double-breasted gray suit followed by a sheer white dress with a lacy tracery of leaves, a white leather blouson followed by a sheer tank. In Valli's world, his women borrow clothes from their men—a suit jacket, track pants. The designer also obliged them with a striking hybrid, a white cotton shirt elongated into a jumpsuit. And the sheer shirttails that fell below the hems of skirts also fused masculine and feminine.

In the past, Valli's alta moda leanings have steered him into airless cul-de-sacs. His new collection featured a crystallized tunic top and skinny pants that could have stepped straight off the Via Veneto in the early sixties, but it looked so good for right now that period quibbles were irrelevant. What changed? The literally sheer sleekness of the clothes Valli showed. Even his bourg-iest mamma look— a red lace suit with prim bows at the throat and waist—had a revealing swatch of organza heading earthward. The signora's slip might have been showing, but she didn't give a good goddamn.