Remember the blue chiffon gown Rosalynn Carter wore to the inaugural ball, the one that created such a stir because she'd worn it before? Critics said the First Lady's choice of the "sentimental" favorite, which she had worn to her husband's inauguration celebration as governor of Georgia six years earlier, might discourage others from buying new dresses and might discourage others from buying new dresses and might be considered a slap at Seventh Avenue. Mrs. Carter survived that flap, and so did the dress. On July 20 it gets added to the First Ladies Exhibition at the Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Instutition. (The bag and shoes, too.) A mannequin made in the image of Mrs. Carter from measurements provided by the White House is already complete. The dress, by the way, designed by Mary Matise at the firm Jimmae, is blue chiffon with an overlay of blue and gold embroidered chiffon. The First Ladies Hall is one of the three most popular exhibitions at the Smithsonian - in a three-way tie with the Hope diamond and the Spirit of Saint Louis - with 4,000 to 5,000 visiting the exhibition area annually.

The French are coming - in force in the fall. Bloomies has set sights on France and will import Castelbajac. Thierry Mugler, Pierre Cardin with Nicole Alphand (wife of former French Ambassador Herve Alphand she has been toiling away for Cardin since she and her husband left Washington), Jean Cacharel, Emmanuelle Khanh, Roland Jourdan (as in Charles Jourdan). Claude Barthelmy, Elie Jacobson of Dorothee Bis. Madame Christian Aujard, widow of Aujard and now head of the firm, will be feted here by Lord & Taylor in September, too.

Not coming, but in absentia his furs and clothes, both couture and ready-to-wear, will be hailed at the French Embassy - Yves Saint Laurent, courtesy of Saks/Jandel. It's likely YSL will be in the United States about that time for the introduction of his new fragrance. Opium, but a Saint Laurent executive wouldn't say there was a chance of him coming for the Oct. 12 presentation. "He (YSL) never shows up anywhere he is expected," he teased.

So much for all those who say that Paris has lost its fashion clout to Seventh Avenue.

Anyone listening? Louise Weiner, special assistant for cultural resources at the U.S. Department of Commerce, has suggested that the shoe industry apply their design talents to orthopedic shoes. "Why do we assume handicapped people have divorced themselves from an eye for beauty? What mandates that orthopedic shoes be brown or black?" she asked at a recent meeting of shoe manufacturers, designers, suppliers and the Footwear Industry Team at the Commere Department.

"It's a rare woman who is willing to wear a nontraditional wedding dress these days," says bridal designer Frank Masandrea. And since Masandrea's strongest suit is wedding dresses that can be worn after the wedding as well, he's now opened a separate business for his ready to wear. This week he's got his first bank of windows in New York at Saks Fifth Avenue and the clothes will also be here at Woodies and Saks/Jandel as well as Saks Fifth Avenue. A broad-shouldered look that is biscally a T-shape is a theme of the fall collection, which Masandrea started working on six months ago. "I felt a change in silhouette was due," said Masandrea, who figured that women were tired of drawstring necklines, peasant silhouettes and resistant to the overpowering full-blown shapes. He's already working on the resort collection and sees the shape changing to more fitted tops and full skirts. "Kind of a Audrey Hepburn look," he says. (Masandrea's bridal designs are for Galina Bouquet.)

Senible hot weather idea from Gentlemen's Quarterly - substituting an all-cotton Chemise Lacoste (alligator shirt) to wear with tie and jacket. Works with tie loosely knotted and - get this - the collar turned up wing tip style. Richard Mauro, manager of Nathan's II. was doing it long before the GQ article - he says that one day he couldn't find the right small-collared shirt to wear so he picked up a white Lacoste and added a skinny tie and collar pin and found it worked perfectly.

Iris Pressley calls it braiding, "not cornrowing, which is more like weaving," but whatever the name, she has spent nine hours having it done by Prestonia at Shelton's Hair Gallery. "It's exotic and it reminds me of Ethiopia which I suppose is my roots." says the actress with the Independent Arts Ensemble who also works at Commander Salamander in Georgetown. The time invested to have it done is well worth it, says Pressley, she expects the hair style to last about two months. The individual braids have been tipped in gold metal beads.