From Italy, the Shape of Things to Come

Italian designerss are shaping up their fall collections to show to buyers and members of the press next week in Milan. No revolutionary changes are expected -- rather a refinement of each designer's signature -- but all with a nudge to gently fitted, soft clothes, lots of jerseys and knits, mostly soft shapes.

Here's what designers are saying about their own collections for fall:

Mariuccia Mandelli for Krizia: "I have a passion for gray, winter blue and great lengths. I like close-fitted dresses, severely classic, at the same time extraordinarily soft, planned to last in time and beyond ephemeral fashion . . . the animal that characterizes this collection could only be the wolf -- the great, soliirtary, proud and beautiful gray wolf that lives in packs."

Rosita Missoni: "We've continued to use boiled wool like we saw the peasants wear in Innsbruck, making huge knit cardigans and boiling them.

Felting makes them warm, waterproof and holds shape well. Our patterns are huge abstracts, like winter landscapes. With the jackets will be short, skinny, constructed dresses or long skirts with knitted pants, like hose, xr underneath."

Gianni Versace: "I was one of the first to do tight, sexy clothes and now I think they are too common, too commercial. So I look for shapes that fly away from the body. I use a circle line with a lot of jersey, sometimes leather mixed with jersey. Some fabrics are matelasse', look wrinkled so you cannot see the body though they fit well. I like the mix of pastels and gray or strong colors and gray. And I use cardigans for an extra layer of warmth and color."

Gianfranco Ferre: Body-consciousness already exists. Woman has learned how to use her body. Now I use a new attitude of subtle body-consciousness like tying a belt at the waist or rolling up a sleeve, or showing a large skirt very close to the waist. I like high heels even with sport clothes, even casual pants. And I like bright colors mixed with classic tobacco or camel. Comfort is first so knits are important; I mix leather in sweaters." Evening clothes are simple, have a big gardenia, "like a flower from my country house."

Giorgio Armani:"I want to give a touch to women's fashion that is less austere, less confined and more relaxed. I have tried to take the city out of the suit . . . relaxing the shape of the garment with a new construction (with noxl fusiling or lining). Jackets should feel like a sweater, and are often worn with sweaters underneath, rather than silk shirts. I've given classic pants a new touch without looking ridiculous, constructed like a knicker at the bottom." Saudi Show Makes a Splash

"It was the most beautiful fashion show I've seen," said an exuberant Hanne Merriman, president of Garfinckel's, following the cultural extravaganza put on by the Saudi Arabians at the Departmental Auditorium Tuesday night.

She was speaking of the lavish, colorful costumes, the jewelry, the sashes, the 24-karat gold embroideries on the women in the show plus the white costumes and encrusted belts on the men.

But she could have been referring to the crowd, one of the most splendidly dressed and jeweled in Washington in a long time. Saudi women in flowing robes posed a striking contrast to westerners in body-conscious dresses. Among the most notable: Buffy Cafritz in a black velvet, subtly jeweled James Galanos gown, Rosemarie Said from London in a jeweled bodice gown by Jean Louis Scherrer, and the Saudi women, some with covered heads, wearing caftans and silk robes, many with beading and spun goldsw sk embroidery. Perhaps a more stunning contrast was that of the young Junior League blonds from Muffy Brandon's office to the trendy fashion crowd, all in black, that made up the production crew from New York. And Speaking of Body-Conscious . . .

Calvin Klein on his provocative ad for Obsession: "It's for the introduction of body products, an extension of the fragrance. Have I insulted anyone? If it were an editorial page in a magazine, no one would be surprised. Other than one nasty note that came to my attention, I haven't had much criticism.

"Since these are products for the body, you have a choice: a still life or to show the body and to talk about what these products are for. This ad hasn't been turned down by anyone. I do want people to notice the page, but I think what we are doing relates to the fact that they are products and creams for bath and the body, and so it doesn't seem like anything unusual.sw sk

"The campaign is slightly controversial . . . if anything is controversial anymore." Billy Boy's Bevy of Barbies

Oh where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? And who are you and why are you wearing a wig and sunglasses? He arrived this week from Paris to go to Laurel Center in Laurel, Md., with a share of his 10,000 Barbie dolls, many in designer garb, and huge settings he calls "environments." They will be on display at this shopping center through today.

Billy Boy, 25, a respected jewelry designer in Paris who happens to own a collection of 11,000 dresses, 2,500 by Elsa Schiaparelli, says he has been captivated by Barbie since he was 10. "Barbie who is 27 is. . . moral, friendly, responsible -- all the things I believe in," said Billy Boy, who owns every style Barbie ever made. With the help of his "best friend," former model Bettina Graziani, Billy Boy persuaded many designers to create Barbie doll clothes for his collection. Apparently, once persuaded, the designers loved the idea. Said Yves Saint Laurent, "It was with surprising pleasure, thanks to Billy Boy, that I have discovered the elixir of my childhood again. For it was by making clothing for my sister's dolls that it all began . . . I have never seen dolls since without thinking of that period of my life when I believed that clothes were just part of a wonderful game, with colors and fabrics playing together in endless happiness."

Before coming to Washington, Billy Boy's Barbie retrospective and New Theatre toured France in a train. Last month that exhibit, plus Barbies dressed by Perry Ellis, Mary McFadden, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and others, were exhibited on a West Side pier in Manhattan. Barbie was showcased in modern heroes roles, including that of astronaut and rock star.

After the New York show, Billy Boy returned to Paris for a week to create the jewelry for the upcoming Thierry Mugler show before coming to Laurel. His atelier is the first for costume jewelry on the Rue de la Paix. In his pink salon he has created a new collection on the theme "Joan of Arc if she had lived during the Edwardian era -- for women who have just emerged from a sad or heroic event." He has declared baroque glitz jewelry "demode'" -- out of fashion -- and replaced it with "one single proud jewel for women with little makeup; assertive, brave and slightly sad. For heroic women of today."

He wears lots of jewelry himself, some old, some new, sometimes pinning a magazine photo he likes to his hat or lapel. "Sometimes it looks good."

He was born in New York, "but I never talk about my childhood." Billy Boy "is the only name I respond to."

His wigs, by the way, are by Alixandre (who creates hair styles for the top couturiers), and he wears them all the time. "They make me another person. Barbie wears wigs the same way -- for the fun of them," he says. "And I look good in them, don't you think?"