Marc Jacobs: Arrivederci, frivolity, girliness, piles and piles of fluff stuff! Ciao, bella, molto chic!

Such was the seismic shift from Marc Jacobs, who for the moment at least is fed up with what he calls "craziness and fashion hijinks." The beautiful collection he showed on Monday night stunned with its bourgeois grandeur, a mood that could not have leapt further from that of last season when he proclaimed "too conventional feels old-fashioned."

This collection was all about convention — it was inspired by a movie about a fascist, for heaven's sake, Bertolucci's "The Conformist." If that rings as a late-Thirties-by-way-of-Seventies motif — bingo! (A more current inspiration: Stephanie Seymour, who at a recent dinner captivated Jacobs with the alluring simplicity of her black turtleneck and pencil skirt.)

Once again, Jacobs showed against a spectacular Stefan Beckman set. To open the show, a huge theatrical curtain parted, revealing four enormous doorways with all of Jacobs' 56 models posing in front. The scene made for high drama of the understandable sort, with lots of chic tailoring, subdued autumnal colors and Stephen Jones' dramatic-brimmed diva-by-day hats. As the models took to the runway — itself an ode to clinical perfection with its cold gray geometric pattern — the exacting cuts came into clear focus, as did the influence of one of Jacobs' favorite references, Yves Saint Laurent.

This was as austere as Jacobs gets, his models' hair slicked back, their clothes ultra-precise — perfect belted coats, a military reference or two, a spectacular array of shirtdresses from dark icy lamé to schoolmarm gray pleats. Boning intensified the shape of simple sweaters worn over pleated skirts, while a quietly subversive gender play emerged in reed-thin pantsuits with spencer jackets and some seriously severe sequins.

But perhaps the clearest expression of his about-face came via his handbags, last season's huge, chaotic crystals replaced by precise geometric medallion closures crafted from various semiprecious stones.

Overall, the contrast was captivating. "The complete turnaround from layers to structured simple pieces was a shock, but I always expect to be shocked," said Saks Fifth Avenue's Michael Fink after the show. "It was so beautiful."

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