There were the same gold chairs as at the couture showings in Paris, and the same Christian Dior clothes. But once Leonid Kozlov, the former Bolshoi Ballet artist, danced across the carpeted floor from reception room to dining room in the French Embassy, it was clear this was no ordinary fashion show.
It was, in fact, the first French couture showing in Washington in a long time -- some guessed six years. And it was held to benefit the camp for Cambodian children run by Father Venet, a friend of French Ambassador and Madame Francois de Laboulaye. The ambassador's wife had planned the presentation and buffet dinner without the help of any committee or professional organizer. "I just wanted to make sure that every penny of what was raised for the show would go directly to Venet," she said.
Soon Kozlov was joined by his wife, dancer Valentina Kozlova, with whom he defected to the United States, plus dancers and models from New York. "We needed to add the dancers to make the show more special," said Jacques Rouet, head of Dior. Rouet brought the show first to New York, then Washington, "as a thank-you for my huge American business," he said.
First came the navy and white nautical styles, some with Russian sailor berets, underscored with navy prints and even wavy details on the jewelry. A group of furs included a white mink with a bright red kiss on the shoulder in the back. Off-side closings, dropped waistline details, one-shoulder styles, and bright color blocks distinguished many of the styles. But the biggest applause was for the stiffened silk "gazar" evening dresses, including one in black and white that Madame Giscard d'Estaing recently ordered.
Many of the guests didn't need Dior's approval to know that one-shoulder dresses were stylish this season and many, including Rose Bogley and Joy Sundlun, wore them.
"I always bare the right shoulder. It seems to balance the look better," said Marc Bohan, artistic director for the $380-million Dior clothing empire. But a minute later, when he cacught sight of a guest in a Dior boutique style with the left shoulder bared, he laughed and said, "I guess that is how you tell the expensive from the cheaper dresses."
Bohan says he chose a more classic style for spring (and again for next fall) because "women are bored with too much eccentricity, too much exaggeration. After all the retro and then the futuristic styles, I think classics in the best quality fabrics and best colors seem to be just what women want."
Deeda Blair, who was wearing a 1972 pink Dior by Marc Bohan -- the house always dates their couture designs on the inside of the dress -- found the silk gazars hard to resist, too. She slipped upstairs after the show to try on the fuchisa top (white skirted version) and ordered it on the spot.
Other spiffily dressed guests at the benefit included Evangeline Bruce, Lorraine Cooper, Lily Guest, Evelyn Nef, Dorcas Hardin and about 200 others.