Never mind the foreboding music that soundtracked the Meadham Kirchhoff show this afternoon. Disregard the dying roses on the catwalk, and the stage set to resemble the entrance to some abandoned, possibly haunted estate. Ignore the palette's preponderance of witchy blacks and lick of vampire red. Whatever menace was being conjured here by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff, it couldn't disguise the glee in this collection. These clothes were simply extraordinary, and you got the impression that the designers had tremendous fun making them.

That sense of playfulness derived, in large part, from the collection's cheerfully ahistorical mash-up of references. There were the Meadham Kirchhoff standbys—baby-doll dresses, punkish takes on the classic Chanel suit, hand-embroidered slipdresses that hinted at the boudoir circa the Belle Époque. And more. The notable new addition to the mix, this time out, was an Elizabethan/Jacobean homage, witnessed in particular in the corset tops and microfloral-embroidered silk satin looks. Speaking after the show, Kirchhoff also pointed out the palette derived from that era: Elizabeth I, he explained, only wore black, white, red, and gold. If she were alive today, she'd undoubtedly have taken a shine to the collection's bright gold python, 1960s-style swing coat. It was certainly fit for a queen.

And there were other ways you saw the designers enjoying themselves. The bat-shaped sunglasses, for instance, were total camp, while the standout look may have been an apron dress with cutwork scenes of cartoonish bunnies riding baby giraffes. That motif was also echoed in the handmade lace, and in both instances the detail drove home the crazy labor that went into these clothes. Every single piece on the runway had really been attended to, and the finish of every garment was immaculate, whether a slinky, allover beaded dress or a snappily tailored double-breasted jacket. That the labor wasn't hidden redounded to the clothing's royal mien; it reminded you that, once upon a time, expensive clothes were supposed to expose the sweat and toil of great artisans. Today, it all read as a labor of love.