Fashion buyers and press from all over the country moved into the final stretch of the marathon of showings of all clothes that started more than a month ago in Milan, continued on to Paris and London and winds up here this week.

Like the controversial Rosie Ruiz, the marathon runner who may have cut out part of the race, many buyers have shown up only for the New York finale. But those who were at the starting gate in Milan have found the New York shows more in the spirit of a reunion than the small riot scene that accompanied many of the European shows.

At Perry Ellis, for example, buyers and press were jammed onto carpeted bleachers that had been built into the former bank that is now Ellis' showroom. But there were seats for all, with the designer's staff in bright-colored sweaters (his biggest sellers) and lots of students crammed into the entranceway.

Ellis' special talent is sweaters and he has varied them brilliantly with capes, some that can be taken off and some with tweed and ombre effects. He has stuck with his purple range and both short and long lengths.

He likes the cape collar so much that he uses it on coats, on jackets, even on knitted caps that extend to collars. "I wanted to take the padding out of the shoulder, but I felt it needed something at the top to replace it," the designer explained. "Capes were the answer."

Though sweaters are his strong suit, Ellis has also had great success with his midcalf-length full pants that bridge skirts and pants. He's continued that proportion for fall but introduced a longer length as well. These brush the ankles, again so full that you can hardly be sure they are pants.His best versions are shown with jackets, such as the gray flannel suit with wide pants worn with an argyle sweater.

While Ellis is busy fiddling with the shape of clothes, most designers are taking a far safer route, sharpening up the things they do best. Halston showed one of his best collections last week, obviously pitched to the rich and successful who would appreciate his double-faced wool coats and suits with rounded shoulders and clean collars that usually flop over, worn with organdy blouses. For evening, Halston produced fireworks embroidered on black tulle on jumpsuits and dresses.

Bill Blass insists that in spite of the state of the economy, his customers want rich, opulent clothes. So he has made his things a little richer, a little more opulent.Imagine a pink cashmere trench coat with sable collar, or a snakeskin jacket lined in fur. Even his sequined dresses are hand-beaded and thus more expensive.

Blass' popular ruffled dresses have gotten deeper ruffles this time, and for a new shape he has ballooned out some short skirts and pants for evening. "I think the balloons will fly higher in Dallas than Washington," said Neiman-Marcus couture buyer Diane Yost after the show. Added Pat Mosbacher, wife of the former chief of protocol. "You can't have people over for dinner anymore. You have to have a pageant."