The maidens in their chalky dresses, alabaster leather crinkled across their bodies, looked magical as they walked the wooden planks of an old Paris schoolhouse.
Whether floor-sweeping gowns or short skirts or even jeans, there was the same effect of intense decoration at the Alexander McQueen show.
"It's an ode to craftsmanship, to the Huguenots who came to Spitalfields with flower seeds in their pockets," said designer Sarah Burton of the French religious migrants who crossed the English Chanel in the seventeenth century and settled in the East End of London, the late Alexander McQueen's stomping grounds.
Burton has a knack for each season finding a new crevice in the world of McQueen. She is able to shred organza and suggest that the wrecked beauty has a story behind it; to embroider a giant bird on the body of a chiffon dress as though it were a vicious vulture; or to wrap heavy chains round black tailoring to hint at a chain gang.
Yet there is a parallel feeling of sweetness and light: flower patterns on the finest leather gowns, floral paintings on shoes and a soundtrack that included "Willow's Song" from 1973 film The Wicker Man and "I am Daylights" by British singer-songwriter Songs of Green Pheasant.
Burton received an ovation for her imagination and for the intense beauty of the show — and the success bodes well for the McQueen store that opened in Paris's Rue Saint-Honoré this week.
Yet only backstage did I grasp fully the extraordinary craftsmanship the McQueen ateliers had achieved — and this for a ready-to-wear, not a couture collection.
The papery whiteness turned out to be leather, washed and treated. French lace was handmade with doves and flower trellises. Jewels were thin chains with a Huguenot cross attached.
The show embraced a general trend of innocent, pastoral dressing for the summer 2016 season. But this lyrical version, with hints of darkness as well as light, was a triumph for Burton and the house of McQueen.