She was trained as an engineer and designed weapons, specifically the fuses for the katyusha rocket. But now ludmila Kuznetsova, a political refugee from Russia, is engineering a business from her party dress designs.
She started designing when her child's illness required her to work from home. There was no problem finding customers. The best clothes in Moscow shops are imports that are expensive and rare."When you see a line in a clothing department in Moscow you simply join in and ask later what they are selling," says Kuznetsova, who moved here two months ago.
Many women in Russia buy clothes from official custom tailors who offer a limited style range. Tailors, who get paid 80 to 90 rubles ($110 to $120) per week, often work "na lavo," translated as "on the left" or black market.
Kuznetsova's daughter, Anna, 15, currently her model, would wear American jeans she got from friends at her school in Moscow. The Russian-made jeans now on sale in Moscow were of a far lesser quality, said the daughter, who will start at Duke Ellington High School in the fall.
In 1979 Kuznetsova was jailed for having an unofficial art exhibit in her home. When she held another exhibit she was warned to leave the country or be jailed again for "activity in movements for human rights for creative workers."
She has started showing her designs to stores and has her first order from Garfinckels' for chiffon dresses."I get ideas from literary heroines," says Kuznetsova, whose small collection includes appliqued organza dresses over knickers. "I love to do evening clothes. You can be more creative and use better fabrics," she says.
She was surprised that Nancy Reagan's interest in clothes was discussed in a news magazine -- "that would never happen in Russia," she explained. Now Kuznetsova is making the kind of clothes the first lady might like to wear. "She is the kind of woman who inspires a designer."
Stripes are out. Dots are in. That's the hot news from St. Tropez, where much fashion news is fomented each season. (The French call dots "petits pois," meaning "little peas," but some of these dots are big as melons.) Diana, princess of Wales, wore a green-and-white dotted dress when she left the hospital with the newly born baby heir. And at the season's convening of friends of Adolfo at his fashion show in New York this week, the ladies had clearly opted for (and wore) all of his dotted prints.
When fashion merchandising consultant Susan Rolontz walked into a Brown University board meeting in New York last week, she was wearing an Adolfo suit, perfect shoes and a Deely Bobber. "I don't like to be serious all the time, I like to make people laugh," said Rolontz, who loves to watch the reaction to the silly headband with stars, hearts or pinwheels bobbing on spring wires when she walks into an elevator. "Most people don't know where to look," says Rolontz, who works for Tobe and Associates.
Is Washington too stiff a town for Deely Bobbers? So far, the silly style, which is a street vendor sellout in New York, has made it to the boardwalk in Ocean City. A few were worn at Gay Pride festivities here last weekend.
Ace Novelty, a firm that specializes in stuffed toys for fairs, has sold more than 1 million Deely Bobbers, making it its hottest item since the "kabonger" 10 years ago, or the troll doll about 15 years back. According to John Minkove, vice president of Ace Novetly, the idea was given to him by a friend more than a year ago. It only started to sell well at the World's Fair in Knoxville. "We thought of calling it a 'whatchamacallit' but decided it just looked like a 'deely bobber,'" laughed Minkove.
The maximum crowd at the special "kids only" opening of "Annie" last week was hot for miniskirts. The two favorite styles were the skort (a short culotte) and a variation on the Norma Kamali rah-rah skirt. Among the wearers: Alexis Brinkley, 12, in authentic Kamali with stripes repeated in knee-high socks.
Queen Elizabeth wasn't wearing a hat when she called on the heir apparent (once removed) at the hospital this week. But most of the time she wears hats "so that people can pick her out in a crowd," says Frederick Fox, one of the hatters to the queen.
Fox, in town this week for lunch with Lady Henderson at the British Embassy, is careful that hats are small enough not to hide the queen's face from photographers, and not too high "so they won't get knocked off when she gets out of a car."
He'll make as many as 20 hats, one for each new outfit, for a royal tour, but she may wear them for four or five years. "After the tour she'll wear them to provincial shows and eventually to boy scout events. That's when you know she really likes the hat and is comfortable in it," says Fox.
Fox hs made hats for Diana, princess of Wales. "The day after she wore the beret from our shop, we sold out of berets, and [berets] were swept straight away from cheaper stores as well."
Fox has nothing to do with the queen's crowns or tiaras. "Everything she wears has to be totally fuss-free," says Fox. "She sometimes will be putting on her tiara as she is running out the front door."
The fashion business has won the race to physical fitness, incorporating jogger gear into money-making designs. Now they've taken up a new sport, dancing, and it is bound to be just as lucrative. Women who are into aerobic dancing and kids who are hooked on "Fame" have caught the sensible strategy for dance dressing. And while it is sure to be the front-runner for fall, the dance look with leg warners and tights and leotards is already catching on.
The annual listing of sewing classes will appear in The Washington Post on the first Sunday in September. Complete information, including range of skill needed for instruction, place, hours, fees, instructors, should be sent to Kathleen Sterritt, Style Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.