Cédric Charlier claims to like the music of Julia Holter, which he used for his soundtrack today, because she is an artist as well as a musician. "Art pushes people to dream," Charlier said after his show, which took place in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, appropriately enough. But the artiest—and the dreamiest—that his new collection got was with the violent splash of hand-painted orange that interrupted his tidy stripes, and the contrast of sequins, red, and turquoise dully gleaming in the show's last outfit. And, of course, Holter's ethereal sounds.

Otherwise, the serious mood of the show was determined by another of Charlier's reference points: protection. The elegant extemporization of clothes you might wear for martial arts (side-tied jacket, baggy cropped pants) paired with boots like shin guards certainly backed that up. The monochrome uniformity of black, white, and navy also suggested the military side of "martial." So did the tightly slicked hair. Thank god for those stripes of fervent color.

Charlier's calling card has always been his precision cutting. Layering and wrapping softened his lines today, and he showed a new interest in transparency, with sheer organza panels on dresses, allover veiling, and toward the end of the show, layers billowing into a long floating train. The designer invoked the seeming paradox of "martial seduction" as a goal, but maybe that wasn't so screwy: You'd probably need to be ordered to be seduced by clothes as all-but-monastic as these. Only in those last few sequined pieces did the hints of chaos under wraps that have appealingly zinged up Charlier's collections in the past seep through.