Michel Goma's Hints of Spring

"What it is like designing for the house of Balenciaga? Ohhh ... please don't remind me of that. It makes me very nervous."

That is Michel Goma speaking by phone from Paris. He showed his first ready-to-wear collection for Balenciaga last weekend, a clue to what the French designer collections for spring will reveal when the shows start Oct. 14. Goma never knew Cristobal Balenciaga, but he saw three of his shows. "I was very young, but I remember it so well. It was so ... haute couture, so simple for day, so extreme for evening, but perfect."

Goma, who has had a ready-to-wear collection under his label and a licensing arrangement in Japan, designed for Jean Patou for 10 years, following Karl Lagerfeld and preceding Christian Lacroix, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Angelo Tarlazzi. Gaultier and Tarlazzi were assistants to Goma at one time.

"Everything is short for spring," says Goma, adding quickly, "Not short short short, but short. Too short is not very exciting for me." He admits that he also likes very long skirts. "But this collection for spring and summer is short. Short is what's new."

Goma's theory is that fashion changes every five years. "The shoulder changes, the hemline, the waist changes," he says. One style that continues in all his collections is the chemise; "it's so elegant and so American," he says.

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Short Takes, Cont'd

It was too early in the morning for eye-to-eye contact, but no matter -- all focus was on the knees. Short skirts were the issue at the Working Women's breakfast with New York designer Eleanor Brenner at the Sheraton Carlton last week. By the end of the show, real women were rolling their skirts at the waistband. "I'm conservative; I'm doing it slowly," admitted lobbyist Anne Wexler, former assistant to President Carter.

Lee Kimche McGrath, director of the Art in Embassies program of the State Department, who wore the shortest skirt of all -- two inches above her knees -- says everything in her closet will be short. "Short skirts are more fun," she says. "I think when you put on a long skirt now you look and feel dowdy."

This was the third annual breakfast, a creation of Gretchen Poston, former social secretary to Rosalynn Carter. All of the models wore opaque panty hose with their skirts. "Nancy Reynolds says opaque hose will never go on the Hill," said Brenner, "But I believe in opaque hose to match the shoes." Until recently Brenner had been wearing wool hose made for nuns; now she finds it easily in the stores. "Without opaque hose I'd look like Minnie Mouse," said Brenner, who was wearing some with a short leather skirt and a blue window-check jacket.

According to Jonathan Czarra, managing director of the Corporate Level store, sponsor of the breakfast, Washington women want shorter lengths, particularly 24- and 25-inch skirts measured from below the waistband. "It's already 35 percent of our business, and we expect it to be much more."

But not everyone is convinced. "I think about (short skirts) as I bob about in the pool and I keep asking myself -- do I want to change and is it feasible? I'm not 22, darling," said former journalist Jayne Ikard. Farol Seretean isn't switching to short skirts, either. "First you have to have limbs worth going out on," she said.

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One Foot Measure

When Andrea Pfister meets people, he first looks at their eyes, their hands, and then at their shoes.

"I can tell if someone has a sense of humor by their accessories, by their shoes," says the shoe designer, who makes footwear for all humors -- and for anyone who can afford handmade Italian shoes.

Pfister, an Italian raised in Switzerland, has been interested in shoes since his childhood and exports his Italian-made designs around the world. They are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And the final hurdle for a shoe designer -- they are worn by Imelda Marcos.

At Garfinckel's last week, Pfister was making the rounds, talking to clients, meeting shoe buyers, who are very conservative and have little imagination, he says. "Always black, always navy, always gray. They are scared to take a risk," says Pfister, who prefers more daring colors and is well known for working in suede, textured leather and exotic skins.

He came to Washington from Positano, Italy, via his favorite city, New York, where he was visiting close friends Donna Karan and Louis Dell'Olio. They all met years ago when Pfister started designing Anne Klein shoes -- the only label he still designs for other than his own. He has forsaken all the rest. "At the last minute they change sizes or styles," Pfister complains. "They really think they are God on earth. So basta!"

No complaints about Karan and Dell'Olio, though. After all, he wears their clothes. With his brown suede Gianni Versace trousers and striped Turnbull & Asser shirt, Pfister wears a bright red Anne Klein blazer. "Size 10, a discard," he says. It's either that or by Karan, he says.

His brown crocodile shoes? "Homemade." -- Martha Sherrill Dailey ---

Notes de la Mode:

Stuart Manson, 7, and Billy Randolph, 8, had no trouble finding something they liked to wear back to school. They are winners of the Full of Beans shop's contest and their designs have been produced by Mary Frederick-Hutchens, coowner of the Alexandria store. Manson desiged herself a simple dropped-waist dress and wild T-shirt; Randolph won with jams, T-shirt, matching sunglasses and surfboard.

Brides have long known how to choose a dress that can be worn long past the wedding. But now there are dresses with instant conversion. Christian Lacroix created a wedding dress for Pia de Brantes in three parts -- paring down to a mini for the bride to wear dancing after dinner. And Stephen Sprouse waited with a pair of scissors at the wedding of Elizabeth Saltzman, daughter of Saks Fifth Avenue's Ellin Saltzman, and after the ceremony, literally snipped the train off the bride's gown.

Symposiums we wish we could attend: an international symposium on fine jewelry, Saturday Oct. 17 at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Among those participating in the all-day series of lectures are the heads of Cartier, Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chaumet. And there will be lectures by Hans Nadelhoffer, president of Christie's, Geneva, and Marie-Noel de Gary, curator at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris. Call the school for more information.

Here's another reason for celebrating the 10th anniversary of White Flint: The mall and the stores nearby generate 15.6 percent of the state sales tax collected in Montgomery County