Oscar de la Renta RTW Spring 2014

In a word, “beauty.” Oscar de la Renta’s own one-word description of his collection, solicited backstage preshow, was absolutely accurate. The lineup was nothing short of a celebration of the fairer sex, every outfit designed to make a woman out of its wearer.

But that was not the whole story. With a little prodding, de la Renta copped to an Elizabethan motif, driven by his ownership of “two very famous portraits of Elizabethan ladies, the Fitton sisters,” Anne and Mary, both ladies in waiting to the Queen. The plots thickened: Mary is rumored to be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Not at all a period piece, the collection worked the Elizabethan angle with smart restraint. Old World references appeared to be absent entirely from the opening of chic day clothes — navy and gingham jackets and coats cut in clean, elegant lines.

Riffs on the era’s decorative signatures — ruffs, embroideries and lace — were introduced as exquisite details on otherwise modern silhouettes: a neat guipure collar on a tweed suit, for example. Two silk faille fit-and-flare dresses featured impressive tapestrylike threadwork; and for the finale, Joan Smalls wore a signature de la Renta glamour gown — canary yellow silk faille and tulle with black filigree headwork — her face veiled in a swirl of black tulle, the height of the collection’s Elizabethan drama.