Even before the models had shed the beaded chemises they wore in the finale of the Bill Blass fashion show at the Hotel Pierre today, the Blass faithful were lined up at the dressing room to kiss the designer and place their orders.
Nancy Kissinger told Blass she wanted the green-and-white plaid suit. Este'e Lauder spotted a long lean black dress with tiered ruffle hem that she thought would be great for showing off her jewelry, especially her pearls. Jane Dudley, wife of former ambassador to Denmark Guilford Dudley Jr., figured the slim white dress with the black diagonal stripe would be fine for her in Palm Beach or Nashville.
The Blass show started the second week of American designers' collections for fall, and it was clear that Blass has his customers pegged. They are wealthy women who like to spend money and dress in luxurious fabrics--suits with easy jackets, slim, below-the-knee skirts for day and slim, black or beaded dresses for evening. Blass likes both an above-the-knee or longer hemline for evening, and to make the point showed one dinner dress with both hemline options.
He is at his best when clothes are lean and spare so that the fabric and texture mix can be shown off. But he also likes things that focus on the hips; he showed many versions of the blouson and balloon shape as well as dresses caught up in belts that wrap tightly and can be worn only by the very thin.
Blass has put as much attention on dresses for making grand exits as those for grand entrances. He softens many dresses with draping--often the front of the dress is unadorned and the back of the dress has all the detail. De'colletage is more important this season in the back of the dress than in the front. "The back of the dress has been neglected for a while," said Blass, "so I thought that for a change I'd put a little of the action back there."
"It makes a dress very seductive," said Lynn Manulis of Martha's.
This year, for the first time, Blass hired a producer for his show, spending $150,000 to construct a set, build bleachers, install a special lighting and music system and hire 30 models for the three repeat presentations. Everything was precisely timed to the music. When a tape of Louis Armstrong singing "La Vie En Rose" began, rose print dresses, beaded roses, rose embroidery and even cutout rose earrings were shown. When the music changed, so did the theme of the dresses.
"Often one is judged by the show and not the clothes so I figured it was worth a lot of time and money to get it straight this time," said Blass.