This time last year there wasn't room for one more designer fashion show on our September calendar. Romping through town a year ago were Perry Ellis, Gil Aimbez, Thierry Mugler, Karl Lagerfeld and a zillion others. This year the list is lean. Oleg Cassini shows up at Woodward & Lothrop with his new perfume (Sept. 12). Also at Woodies -- Bill Blass will introduce his men's formalwear designs (Sept. 18) and Jerry Silverman will be there Sept. 19 and 20; Harriet Winter will bring her collection to Claire Dratch (Sept. 7 and 8) and Donald Brooks at Lord & Taylor (Sept. 6 and 7). Zandra Rhodes will be at Saks Jandel (Sept. 12 through 14), followed by Rafael Sanchez (Sept. 18 and 19) and Cathy Hardwick (Sept. 26 and 27); Victor Costa is coming to Neiman-Marcus (Sept. 29), Frank Olive at Garfinckel's (Sept 14); Bill Tice (Sept 10), Tracey Mills (Sept 11 and 12) and Fiamma Ferragamo (Sept. 18) will appear at Saks Fifth Avenue; Ilie Wacs (Sept. 17 and 18) at I. Magnin. Bloomingdale's, which brought in six designers from France to their Washington suburban branches during one 10-day period last September, will have no designer appearances in the store this fall.

Here's what the stores say. Says Aniko Weiner of Garfinckel's, "It is terribly expensive to pick up the tab for air fare, meals, hotel, limos for deisgner appearance." Says Nancy Chistolini at Woodies, "Not a great number of women turn out to meet the designers when they do come to the store." And from Margot Rogoff at Bloomingdale's, "Designers including Giorgio Armani and Rosita Missoni and Carla Fendi, is actually having fewer designer appearances."

Whatever the reason, it is too bad. As expensive as designer clothes are at the moment, customers need all the help they can get selecting clothes, and stores need this kind of professional assistance selling them. Stores, however, are adding a sizeable member of seminars to help women cope not only with clothing problems, but the household variety of concerns as well.

The Smithsonian Resident Associates Program is revving up to a success for their Extraordinary Women in Fashion lecture series. This one will be on the world of costume and will include lectures on consecutive Tuesday nights in October and November by Edith Head, Bob Mackie, Rudi Gernreich and Donald Brooks. Robert L. Green will give a history of Hollywood costume.

Sandra Fletcher is a traveling designer, taking her "tools," -- a batch of simple sketches and a collection of swatches plus a measuring tape -- with her when she calls on clients in their offices. Nothing is sacred about her designs -- which, in fact, she never personally sketches or sews, but has others do for her. Want to change the scalloped hem to a straight one, front slits to side slits, low-cut blouse to high? It's no problem. Fletcher just tells her co-designer Anna Andreason to make the pattern that way and her four seamstresses to follow the patterns.

Her biggest seller is Ultrasuede, done as a suit (just ordered by Effi Barry with a high-cut blouse instead of the low-cut style originally shown), a quilted jacket or trim on a silk dress. "I'm thinking of making Ultrasuede running shorts," says Fletcher in all seriousness. "Everything I make in Ultrasuede sells well." Arthur Ashe and Friends plans to carry them. Other Fletcher clients include Ruby McZier, chairman of the zoning commission, television newscaster Angela Owens, Montessori administrator Evelyn Syphaz and others. Fletcher will also use silk given to Barry by China's Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping on a recent visit here, for an evening dress. Her menswear designs are usually unconstructed jackets or Ultrasuede items.

Apparently it's all selling so well that Fletcher plans to branch out. She'll have a show in St. Louis and establish a representative in New York. Meanwhile, the Ultrasuede suit in raspberry color, like the one she is making for the mayor's wife, will be shown in the Black Caucus fashion show luncheon in September.

Fletcher doesn't use a business card: "I feel they are pretentious," she says. But she can be reached at 291-6764.

It may be the most expensive suit ever made and no one is likely to quibble about the $200,000 price tag. That's the cost of the new computerized space suits with a gold-plated visor now being made for men and women space travelers -- there are six women in the group of 61 astronauts selected for the shuttle program. The suits are designed to last for 15 years (100 missions) while the last model was worn just on one mission. Hamilton Standard engineers in Windsor Locks, Conn., showed off the new models recently which replace the old space suit-cum-backpack approach with a suit that includes a monitoring device and an alarm to communicate with the wearer in space. According to Robert Breeding, a vice president of the firm, each suit contains a thumb-size microprocessor circuit chip as its individual computer.

A fiberglass, hard upper torso enhances both reliability and durability. Sized extra small to extra small to extra large, five sizes in arm lengths can be attached. "The new suit takes advantage of technologies which have developed since the days of Apollo," says project manager Fred Morris. "The objective is to cover everyone comfortably, allowing mixing and matching of arm and leg pieces. That way we can have a comfortable and mobile fit, yet allow mass production."

Susan Ford Vance has just completed her first beauty photo assigbnment for Revlon, making pictures for a press package which she photographed on five working women in Paris, Ill. (The pitch is Americans in Paris, get it?) Susan linked up with Revlon through a David Kennerly connection . . . he knew someone at Revlon and suggested her name. But the job was signed on through Vance's agent in California. How much was she paid for the day-and-a-half work? "I don't know if we had a deal or not," said a company spokesman.