Lauder's Class Act

"It's like going back to school," said Washingtonian Penne Korth as she kissed friends she hadn't seen all summer at Garfinckel's opening luncheon Wednesday honoring Evelyn Lauder, wife of Estee Lauder President Leonard Lauder and corporate vice president of the company. And like every opening day at school, there was lots of talk about clothes -- and checking of hemlines and discussion of summer vacations. Lauder and her husband just returned two days earlier from a safari in Kenya with Bloomingdale's Chairman Marvin Traub and his wife Lee.

But it wasn't a new school, but a "new home" that Garfinckel's Chairman Neal Fox was inaugurating with the luncheon. "And you are our first guests," he told Lauder, Buffy Cafritz, Pamela Jacovides, Arianna Huffington, Nancy Reynolds and Pat Dixon, among others.

Lauder had bought a new Calvin Klein dress for the luncheon but with the warm weather switched to a Giorgio Armani blouse and jacket and Krizia leather skirt. "It had to be a short skirt," she said. Other guests in the short skirt camp were Jacovides, Sigrid Spalding, Reynolds and Garfinckel's public relations executive Aniko Gaal. "Don't worry," Gaal consoled one guest in a midcalf-length skirt. "When it comes time to put on opaque hose the short skirts will be easier to wear."

Fox saluted Lauder as a friend of 21 years and as a member of a company that epitomizes the American spirit -- "for its entrepreneurial spirit, and as a privately held and operated company" (Lauder knocked on the table for luck) -- "and on the international level, as a company at the vanguard of expansion into the European market."

---

Selling America

It won't be the first time Europeans have had a chance to see the best of American clothes on their turf. A small crowd saw a show of five American designers at Versailles in 1973. Since then clothes by Ralph Lauren, Willie Smith and Donna Karan have become available and well-known to Europeans.

But Emile Tubiana doesn't think that's enough. Tubiana, who for 14 years has organized shows and sales of European styles in New York at the New York Pret, says it's time for a return visit. "It's time that Europeans begin to understand that there is more to American clothes than jeans, which is what they know best," said Tubiana.

And so Tubiana and his company are spending $150,000 to underwrite the participation of 40 American designers in a show to be held Saturday in Paris. There will be seats for 15,000 people, said Tubiana. "This year we are selling the image, next year we hope to sell the clothes." Almost simultaneously in Moscow, American designs will be seen by 25,000 at the Olympic stadium. Organizers are Dallas theatrical and fashion show producers Michael Owen and Tommy Breslin, who made the proposal while part of a peace delegation last year. "We made sweeping initiatives knowing we might get approval of a tiny part and got documentation authorizing all of it," said Owen. Among the events: a show of Mikhail Baryshnikov's Bodywear styles and a presentation of a fashion award to Raisa Gorbachev.

---

The Brits' Knits

The most varied and imaginative sweaters have always come from English designers, perhaps because of the accessibility of a variety of wools and the cool weather. But the design freedom given in the art schools -- compared with the emphasis on technical training in many American design centers -- has also helped produce a remarkable range of knits.

So it is no surprise that "Summer & Winter Knitting" (Westminster Trading Corp, $24.95), a book by Stephen Sheard, who created Rowan Yarns in England, is a winner. Rowan Yarns makes the best color range of quality yarns and has inspired designers such as Kaffe Fassett, whose knit designs are in the book along with Artwork's Jane Foster and Patrick Gattelier, and Bodymap's Stevie Stewart and David Hulah.

The pieces are photographed with charm, and the instructions are explicit but not for beginners. If you need more help, Washington entrepreneur Jackie Chalkley is sponsoring lectures and a reception for visiting British knitwear designers next week. Call Jackie Chalkley at (202) 686-8882 for details.

---

Postal Patrons

In the mail: From a retired Marine Corps officer who won't let us use his name, disappointment "with the American male's inability to wear a tie in the proper manner!" The right way, he says, is with the tie (or field scarf as they call it in the Marines) worn "two blocked" -- snug under the collar.

And from Manila, a post card from Imelda Marcos' closet, with a note from a friend who saw a purse signed by Fidel Castro.

And from Kathy Kemper, head tennis pro at Mount Vernon College, nine pictures of herself with suggestions on "how to combine feminine allure with down-to-earth requirements of the female tennis player." The major fashion note -- a hair bow to replace last year's bandanna.

----

Notes de la Mode:

"When a creative person dies, it's a worldwide loss," says Lou Yakavalli, one of the organizers of the "Allies Against AIDS" benefit for AMFAR at the World, a Manhattan club, tomorrow night. Although they will be showing their collections at Olympia in about five weeks, many British designers, including John Galliano, Richmond-Cornejo, David Fielden, and The English Eccentrics will preview their spring clothes, and the Black Britains will perform. The next night American designers, including Geoffrey Beene, Stephen Sprouse, Michael Kors, and Norma Kamali, will host a dinner at Stringfellows to applaud their British colleagues' efforts.

Some of the most comfortable clothes around, the Nancy Heller knits -- with pull-on pants, oversized cardigans and roomy pullovers -- have been available for a year or so in sizes for large women. Finally for fall, Heller has made large-size clothes of the high-quality cashmere she uses in the more popular sizes. They will be available at the Forgotten Woman at Mazza Galerie.

Bosoms are back, and very much in view in the upcoming Revlon ad with Liza Minnelli. Revlon will soon switch from familiar models' faces to celebrities' faces and more, if the ad photographed by Richard Avedon, which will appear in October, is any clue.