This circus-inspired collection was the equivalent of walking a tightrope a few feet off the ground — rather safe yet still a balancing act between commercial imperatives and the conceptual legacy of the founder, who made his last disappearing act in 2009.

Strip away the replica big-top items — bedazzled cabaret corsets, trapeze trousers and a tattered ringleader jacket — and this Maison Martin Margiela show was mainly about tailoring inspired by men’s wear and then dissected. Tuniclike jackets were sliced open in the back and fastened loosely with black ribbons, as were a series of sparkly vests and bustier dresses. A pin-striped blazer, sheared off at the bosom and without sleeves, became an unusual shoulder-baring tunic held up by overall-like straps.

Suit sleeves, in fact, became free-floating elements lassoed to the neck with ribbons. A handsome black tailcoat, among the best looks in the show, came without sleeves and was paired with terrific trousers. On tuxedo pants, contrasting harlequin shapes replaced satin stripes.

Some of the eveningwear was dead simple and striking, particularly the strapless evening columns in peach satin or black chiffon, their tops cinched with black elastic. They didn’t need any circus ballyhoo.

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