They put up stanchions and red ropes to direct the crowd of mink- and sable-coated ladies at the St. Regis Hotel yesterday morning: It wasn't a movie premiere, but a showing of Adolfo's spring collection.

The Cuban-born designer whose clothes Nancy Reagan has worn since 1967 had turned out a standing-room-only crowd of 800, almost twice the number who attended his last show six months ago.

Mrs. Reagan wasn't there, but like her California friends who are also Adolfo regulars, she already has previewed the collection and has several styles in the works.

"The Californians are caught in a blizzard," said Elizabeth Bixon, director of Adolfo, who was scurrying around to find front-row seats for Paulette Goddard, Estee Lander, Pat Buckley, Mary Lasker, Evelyn Hall (sister of former Ambassador Walter Annenberg) and others.

At the far end of the room a cluster of 27 seats had been saved for the volunteers from Memorial Sloane-Kettering Cancer Clinic, "hard-core Adolfo fans," as Pat Mossbacher, wife of the former protocol chief, described herself and the others. Tish Baldrige gave up her seat to get a better view by standing.

The audience was mostly Adolfo collectors plus a few store buyers, all decked out in their Adolfo finery.Some wore the crocheted chemises and crunchy handknit sweaters from this season, more were in the Chanel-style suit that Mrs. Reagan likes to wear. (It's a good thing Adolfo has moved on from the millinery business -- there was hardly a hat in the crowd.)

It would take a scorecard to know from just which season these Chanel-style suits were bought. No so with Gladys Solomon's white suit, which Mrs. Reagan also owns, from the current season. Solomon, who says she owns 400 adolfos "starting price this season is $600 each) and took 90 of them on her last round-the-world trip, said proudly, "I bought mine, first."

She did let Mrs. Reagan wear the jeweled top by Adolfo on New Year's Eve before she appeared in hers. Just a matter of principle, she said. Solomon, the wife of a financier, is supposed to have two rooms she uses just to store her Adolfos.

Mildred Hilson, who was wearing a black-and-white Adolfo, had no problem about the other women wearing a similar style. "It shows I've chosen well," said Hilson, who the night before had hosted a dinner for her former neighbors, Barbara and George Bush.

If Adolfo made some special bow to Mrs. Reagan in the show, it was mostly in the color red she likes to wear, particularly in the red Chanel-style suit and one-shoulder gown, with a huge puff sleeve that the first lady already owns in black velvet. Mrs. Reagan already has ordered both those designs in red plus a cinnamon colored crochet short dress with silk pleated ruffles. Her pals Betsy Bloomingdale and Lee Annenberg have sent their checks for Adolfo's pleated-tunic-over-pants costume that Nancy Kissinger also will own.

There were not many surprises in the Adolfo collection, save a couple of minis which, as Adolfo admitted after the show, "I do just for him, not for real. I have to show I am a la mode." (Adolfo behind the scenes at the show" was wearing his usual white surgical coat and silver thimble.)

He moved easily from favorites of last season to the new spring collection. Last season's ruffles have been regeared to organdy blouses with long plaid silk skirts. His handknit sweaters are now icy white and beaded, shown with white pants or skirts. New for him is the battle jacket, to be worn over printed silk blouses and matching skirts.

Adolfo thinks Mrs. Reagan will keep coming to his Madison Avenue showroom, which he vacuums himself at the start of each day. She'll make her choices, have her fittings, pay her bills just as before. And he'll go to Washington to see his premier customer's husband sworn in as president. (He doesn't know if she'll be wearing one of his designs for the occasion.) But he'll pass on all the parties.

"I don't want to impose," he says. "They have enough to think about without having to worry about how Adolfo is getting along."

Besides, if Mrs. Reagan wants to see him, she'll find him in Chevy Chase the following week, where he'll be making a personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue.