"Who wanted to buy a coat that didn't cover their skirt when they already had a too short coat at home in the closet," asked Carol Cohen, designer for Braefair, who was at Raleigh's recently. She blames the stubborness of stores and the lack of forcefulness of manufacturers for the reason coats were never long enough to catch up with this fall's increasingly long skirts.

No such problems next year, promises Cohen, who is already designing coats in 49-inch lengths (below midcalf) in lots of shapes including full coats drawn in at the waist, tubular coats, steamer coats and others. Actually Cohen likes the idea of a skirt showing beneath the coat, when it is designed that way as with the above-knee length, squatter, topper styles. But Cohen doesn't think they will sell very well. "The problem is that they cost only about $10 less than a full-length coat, since the labor costs are exactly the same," says Cohen.

"I always add something to break the seriousness of the design, to add sweetness to the clothes," says Cynthia Ruggeri. Italian designer for Bloom who opened a shop in Watergate Hotel for her own and her husband's designs for Punch. Scattered flowers, the applique of a fish, a hand, a pair of lips decorate some of the styles, which are always loose-fitting, simply cut, in lightweight fabrics. "Dress is still a factor of happiness in spite of the current condition in Italy," Ruggeri said.

The dismembered mannequins, grouped in the Connecticut Avenue store window of Philipsborn along with fully dressed ones, were the brainchild of Karen Almy, who thought it was a "way of showing how mannequins and clothes get together." Most passers-by thought the window was unfinished, and management concluded it could be misinterpreted. So in less than two days, rather than the usual two weeks, the window was down.

"In New York, such a window probably would have looked underdone," said Richard Mauro, manager of neighboring Nathan's II, who said he'd overheard quite a few luncheon discussions about the short-lived display.

A few men, like James Eldar of the Folger Shakespeare Library, subbed soft shirts for the regular white-tie regalia, but for most it was traditional white tie and tails, even top hats, white gloves and canes for the Viennese Waltz given last week to honor donor members of the Smithsonian National Associates. The ladies put out far less effort, many showing up in pajamas, tunics or narrow skied styles that limited the waltzing, galloping and the Victorian foxtrot.

Among the exceptions, Mrs. John Auchincloss in a big skirted embroided ballgown, designed by the Fontana Sisters in 1957, New York City Ballet star Patricia McBride in a red and gold dress by Madame Paul in Georgetown with full skirt and big sleeves. McBride, who is partial to Yves Saint Laurent and Arnold Scassi designs as well, said, "I always seek out theatrical styles for my own wardrobe."

Designers Perry Ellis, Willi Smith and Sue Wong (she designs for Arpeja of California) will be in town Thursday to pick up from their "Young Designer Awards" from The Hecht Company at the annual Multiple Sclerosis luncheon, fashion show benefit. The awards, instituted by Hecht's last year, are given to up-and-coming designers whose names appear most frequently on lists scouted out from store people and New York sources by fashion director, Ron Lichter.

Not only women are buying more black underwear in the Sensual '70. Black underwear is one of the new best sellers in the Jockey International lines, the company reports.

"I'm calling to protest the new clothes in magazines, newspaper ads and stores," said Doris Sands, a University of Maryland professor on the phone this week. "I'm 50, size 8, very good looking, and I don't believe what I am seeing. There is nothing elegant, nothing pretty."

"I don't object to comfort or looseness, but they are so loose they aren't pretty. Sloppy isn't quite the right word, but it is close to that."

Woor admires the way Rosalynn Carter and Deena Clark dress. "I bet you wan't catch them in these clothes, or me either," she said.

Though several women have called with similar comments, stores have reported considerable interest and sales of the new styles, particularly the loose fitting dresses. Often, fashions are photographed or displayed in the extreme to catch the eye, but when looked at closely, they are simply looser fitting jackets, dreses, blouses, etc. that are easy and comfortable to wear.

"It's a new dimension and so it always takes time for people to understand it," says Miami Liebeskind of Ann Taylor, in town for the opening of the new Mazza Gallery store. Her store's been selling the fuller, lightweight clothes in enormous quantities, she says. "The beauty of the clothes is the softness of the fabric. The fabrics are so light that the look is fine for anyone."