A Wardrobe Fit to Play Carnegie Hall

It started when Liza Minnelli went to Halston's house in New York eight months back and they started to talk about the numbers she might do for her first performance in New York in five years, a three-week run at Carnegie Hall. Halston, who had dressed Minnelli for years, was the most natural choice as designer. "She's like my kid sister. Everyone loves her," said the designer.

He made many dresses which eventually pared down to a four-costume, quick-change wardrobe and a dress for the party after opening night. Three were lavishly embroidered, the fourth a long velvet with full skirt and layers of tulle underneath.

They chose the colors to go with the renovated Carnegie Hall -- the encore dress is gold and white and another is red to go with the red velvet chairs. One harks back to a favorite Halston style that Minnelli has worn before -- a loose top with narrow pants. For the party afterward Halston has created a short pouffy dress, exactly right for the entertainer's size 6/8 figure, says Halston. "If you've got pretty legs, now is the moment to show them."

On the discard rack is a dress Halston created for the opening number, short in front, long in back with a train. "When Liza started to rehearse it didn't work so I made the short white one instead."

Since he closed his fashion business and gave up the rights to his name, following several mergers of the parent company, Halston's been building a new house in Montauk, Long Island, and making clothes for Martha Graham's dance group and Graham personally.

"The rest of the world will have to wait," said Halston. "I miss it," he admitted. "We are negotiating with lawyers hoping for a good solution," he said, but he was reluctant to predict when he might be back in business. Krystal's Clothes

Krystal Shrader was a Big Sister to a young girl who wore leg braces and had a terrible struggle putting on pants. So Shrader made her a pair of trousers with Velcro closures on the inseam. She's been making special clothes for premature babies and handicapped kids ever since. Business is so good she's now got a catalogue, for a refundable $2, from Krystal's Wee World, Box 97, Culpeper, Va. 22701.

Home-Grown Costumes

The December show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute in New York will be the first ever to focus on American designers. The show will include designs up to 1960, according to the Met's curator of fashion, Jean Drusedow. The show will draw largely on things already in the museum while the Costume Institute gears up to another blockbuster show in December 1988 -- Clothes of the Napoleonic Period. That one will be done in conjunction with the Muse'e de Mode in Paris.

Designer Nonscents

No one believes the silly requests designers get, says Calvin Klein's partner Barry Schwartz. He thought the most outrageous was a request for designer-endorsed sanitary pads. But last week he had in his hand a letter requesting something equally outrageous -- scented underwear.

"It's the ultimate jerkiness -- and they even have a patent!" said Schwartz.

Facts & Trivia

1. "Name the woman in the 1850s who became famous for wearing short skirts with Turkish trousers to her ankles?"

2. "Who was the first president inaugurated wearing long pants?"

3. "The idea for the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Criminals list came from what other list in 1960?"

Fashion trivia is part of the mix of a new game called U.S.A. Trivia, soon to be at Garfinckel's. Wayne Boynton, who calls himself an amateur historian, took 2 1/2 years to create the 6,000 plus questions. Our favorite bit of trivia refers to the trendy women in the 1750s who wore hats topped off with lightning rods -- after Ben Franklin discovered electricity, of course.

Answers elsewhere on this page.

The Answers

Answers to trivia questions:

1. Amelia Bloomer

2. John Quincy Adams

3. The Ten Best Dressed Women list

Now, That's Italian

What's Italian for dress suits, hats, bathing suits and wedding dresses? Those are among the words Norma Kamali and her merchandise managers are focusing on during their early-morning study sessions downstairs in the East 56th Street boutique. Kamali has just made an agreement with Zamasport, an Italian company that also produces the Romeo Gigli and Callaghan clothes, and will show the first Kamali collection in Milan in October. Kamali closed down her wholesale business, manufactured in New York, after a run-in with the ILGWU. The Italian-made clothes will be sold only in Europe and in Kamali's own shop in New York, and will include hobito vestiti, capelli, costumi di bagno and vestito di sposa.

Fur-cast for Fall

Last week was the fur markets' turn to show off their wares for next fall. For many designers it was the chance to interpret their favorite fall looks in clothes done in the most luxurious of "fabrics" -- fur. No surprise, the message was mostly short. Donna Karan, whose new passion is wild mink, did many knee-length coats but slipped in a few long ones "to cover all those bare knees," she said.

Saks-Jandel showed its collection at the Russian Tea Room with a slight tilt to shorter lengths. Clearly the designer clothes in the Chevy Chase shop have rubbed off on the furs. Among the best styles were the Chanel-inspired jackets and the Yves Saint Laurent-esque coats.

"It wouldn't be very good in a Russian winter," said one Russian diplomat's wife who had trouble understanding the shorter lengths. Donna Hartman, wife of the former American ambassador to Moscow, still had her mind on the recent problems at the American Embassy there. "However wonderful it is to be back with friends and family, and however much I love my country, it's offensive and makes homecoming far less joyous than it might have been after 10 years," she said.

Notes de la Mode

Remember the Herme`s commemorative scarf for the Statue of Liberty celebration? Well, get ready for an American scarf salute for the 200th birthday of the Constitution. It's from Echo Scarves in red, white and blue silk and will be in Washington stores soon.

Yves Saint Laurent has a new design for fashion awards -- he will give a Fashion Institute of Technology student $1,000 and a week in Paris consulting the designer, seeing the workrooms and the YSL boutique.

We don't know their slugging averages, but one Japanese softball team has made a big hit wearing Bloomie's baseball caps. They were picked up at Bloomie's Airport Shop just before a team owner boarded a flight to Tokyo. @ CAPTION: Halston and Minnelli in one of his dresses. @ CAPTION: Norma Kamali. @ CAPTION: Historical neckwear.