Think "summer" and the mind will instantly unpack a handful of stock images: surfers, girls in bikinis, cutoffs, spaghetti-strap sundresses. Summer is the casual season. But as J.Crew's Tom Mora noted at today's presentation, 'twas not ever thus. Though the latest Crew womenswear collection was inspired, in part, by California surf culture, Mora got somewhere richer and stranger by strapping that reference to a theme of summer on the Venice Lido, circa the turn of the twentieth century. "Back then, going to the beach meant dressing up," he pointed out. "It was very polished."

With that in mind, Mora and company gave the signature J.Crew punchy aesthetic a soigné twist, with pieces like a trim floral neoprene skirt with a ruffle and articulating seams, or a ruffled white minidress of varied eyelets. The clothes weren't fussy—that would be a breach of Crew protocol—but they did express some formality. Still, some of the other standout pieces expressed exactly the opposite, like the paint-splattered army green khakis sure to be on many an editor's must-have list for Spring. Also on that list: a pair or two of the Sophia Webster for J.Crew heels that made their debut at the presentation. Mora's pick? An orange pair, dotted with stars.