Sicily is proving a truly bottomless well of inspiration for Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana. Today was their umpteenth collection drawing on yet another facet of Sicilian culture, in this case the island's interaction with Greece in the ancient world. Sounds kind of academic, but it wasn't. Dolce and Gabbana are designers, after all, not history teachers. So when they used old photographs of ruined amphitheaters as prints, they had a pleasing graphic quality. Ionic columns reproduced as heels on shoes were a flash of wit. So were the gold coins that exploded into chunky prizefighter-like corset belts, especially when those belts gripped delicate dresses petaled with Sicily's almond blossom. That hard/soft contrast is a Dolce & Gabbana signature, the same way that a woman in a bustier and black lace slip (she's a stock character in the designers' repertoire, and she reappeared here) is anything but vulnerable with her go-on-I-dare-you attitude. Women like Bianca Balti and Bianca Brandolini d'Adda, in other words, who were both front-row today.

Gabbana described the collection as "an unconscious dream," in the sense that the clothes embodied the blend of the real and the irrational that can only be found in dreams. Perhaps that was why the designers invoked Federico Fellini, whose movies blazed trails in that territory over and over again. But there was scarcely Fellini's flavor of surreal exuberance here, unless you count some odd alpaca wraps. Rather, there was actually a pretty grounded, earthy feel to the collection; it was at its most ethereal when the almond blossoms started to fall.

Sophia Loren was a reference point. Once again this season, it was Catherine McNeil, in a red slip with black bra showing, who summoned up the ghost of screen goddesses past. But the sheer polka-dotted blouses, pencil skirts, and coat-dresses all had Loren's distinctly ample, womanly slant. The more modern shapes—a mini-trapeze top with shorts, say—were the sort of sheerly pretty looks you could imagine Dolce girls like Bianca, Giovanna, and Anna parading around the Med next summer.

What brought all the strands of the collection together were the wonderful artisanal workmanship and fabric research. One standout: a richly aubergine-toned shift in glossy lacquered silk, with embroidered blossoms trailing down its front. For the finale, the gilded army of women that stormed the catwalk offered another vision—albeit rarefied—of the female empowerment that other designers have been talking about all week.