The Long and Short of It

The alternative to short is very long, says designer Arnold Scaasi. Even Scaasi, who was in Washington recently for the American Booksellers Association convention, was surprised how attuned his eye had become to an above-the-knee length. "Even the suit we delivered to Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington just three weeks back is already too long," he said. "Fortunately, it can be shortened."

Scaasi, who concentrates on evening clothes, says he never liked the longer length, though he conceded to making the mid-calf length. "Never longer! That's droopy and old." However, when it comes to dresses for balls, he thinks those should be to the floor, not shorter.

Scaasi started in the ready-to-wear business in 1959. In the early 1960s he consulted Norman Norell on a problem. "All of our clothes are on the markdown racks," he says he told Norell. "What should we do?" Norell said he would fight the anti-fashion mood of the moment by making clothes more expensive. Scaasi chose a different route -- making made-to-order designs, also more expensive. "There's never a big hemline decision when you make clothes individually for clients," he said.

Three years ago he went back into ready-to-wear, still keeping his successful private customer business with clients including Yasmine Khan, Diahann Carroll, Elizabeth Taylor, Mitzi Gaynor, Blaine and Ivana Trump, Brooke Astor and many others. Soon he expects to add daywear to his manufactured collection, incorporating the kinds of things his private clients like, such as tweed suits with both a day blouse and an evening blouse and coats with matching skirts.

Short skirts have not curbed the prices of his (or other) collections. "I have this theory that every outfit uses the same amount of fabric. If the skirt is short, somehow more fabric always goes into the top."

We've got our own theory -- Fashion prices never go down!

Mori's Magic Wand Transforms Cinderella

It may be the most eclectic fairy-tale ballet ever. Imagine Cinderella in Hollywood in the 1930s wearing costumes by a Japanese designer who also works in Paris.

This remarkable mix is the result of a Rudolf Nureyev and Hanae Mori collaboration on the classic Prokofiev ballet production to be performed by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York starting June 16.

With the help of Nureyev, who is artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet, and Mori, visions of King Kong, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland and others flit across the stage. Cinderella is retrieved from her terrible existence by a leather-jacketed fairy godfather who arrives by motorcycle and whisks her away in a pumpkin-colored Cadillac.

Mori, who does costume design almost as a hobby while directing her $500 million fashion empire, was approached by Nureyev and asked to make costumes for a rather modern Cinderella after her successful costumes were worn in a production of "Madame Butterfly" at La Scala. Actually, Mori got her start in the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of Japanese films, when she acted as costumer for close to 1,000 movies. She has made more than 150 lavish costumes for this production of Cinderella.

Kelly, Buttonholing Backers

Yes -- that dress with all the buttons that Bette Davis was wearing on the David Letterman show recently was a Patrick Kelly design. So was the hat, as Davis told her host. Davis also told Letterman that Kelly was in New York at the time looking for a backer. By the morning after the show, it looked like he had one.

Kelly, who was in Washington recently for an appearance at Garfinckel's and a visit to the merchandising class at Howard University, loves buttons. "As a kid my grandmother used to replace buttons on my clothes with whatever buttons she could find. They never matched and it didn't matter," Kelly said.

Now he does the button dress several ways -- one with a separate bag of large colorful buttons for the wearer to scatter on her dress as she pleases. The other is well-placed (and permanently attached) buttons used as decoration instead of sequins or embroidery.

Here Comes the Bride, Trendiness Aside

In the Bill Blass show, the bride wore a mini-dress, mostly to make the point of the importance of the short hemline for fall. But when talking over the design of his wedding dress for Melissa Price, daughter of Ambassador Charles Price and Carole Price, in London, there was no question about length. The designer decided on quote a grand dress, with a full skirt and train. "The subject of a short skirt never came up," said Blass.

Blass always starts the design of a wedding dress with a conference with the bride -- "without her mom," says Blass. "I always want to know how she visualizes herself as a bride. It is remarkable how some of the most tailored business women have a totally different idea of what they want to look like for their wedding."

Price's gown for her marriage to Alexander Onton in St. Paul's Church in London Friday afternoon was ivory silk taffeta with a full net petticoat edged in lace. The form-fitting shirred bodice billowed out below the waist into a very full skirt with a 3 1/2-foot train. Patricia Underwood executed the veil with tiny taffeta bows scattered over ivory silk illusion.

The bridesmaids' dresses were a shape similar to the wedding gown but in rose pink silk taffeta. The bows were repeated too, but in satin ribbon anchored on the shoulder.

Doing the Lindsay Lift

Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil.

The evil in this case is wrinkles and the pressure Lindsay Wagner is applying to her face is what she calls an "acupressure face-lift" since "my profession requires me to keep the chassis together and the paint looking new ... "

Actually Wagner is the model and coauthor of the soft-cover book called "Lindsay Wagner's New Beauty -- The Acupressure Facelift" (Prentice Hall Press, $10.95) with coauthor Robert Klein. Klein, described as a "nutritionist, herbalist and homeopath," taught her the method, but first Wagner had her mother try it out. "She made the perfect subject, for two reasons: One, she is difficult to convince and two, she admits to having lost the war against gravity."

Notes de la Mode

When Steven Linder looks at computers, he hopes they are broken. In fact, he hopes they are so useless he can dismantle them and use the components. Linder, a pension attorney with the IRS, makes jewelry from computer elements. He started about a year back with pieces he picked up in an electronics shop in Manhattan. When his wife, government contract law attorney Susan Linder, gave up her pearls and and started wearing her husband's computer jewelry, local stores like Goutti in Georgetown got interested.

The hair is spiky on top, the suit baggy and plaid, the socks white and the shoes black loafers. Sound familiar? It's the Bruce Willis look, so popular with kids, that is catching on with the male buyers. A perfect example -- Jack Cohen, Bergdorf Goodman's fur buyer at the Donna Karan fur show.