Raising the Royal Regalia

If the royals wear skirts above the knees, no one else will be afraid to. Bruce Oldfield, a fav designer of Diana, the princess of Wales, and Lindka Cierach, who makes dresses for Sarah, the duchess of York, both have in mind to bare knees -- at least for evening. Said Cierach diplomatically, "All my clients want to go short."

Cierach had been making only custom clothes until last March. Born in Lesotho, in southern Africa, Cierach grew up with an English mother and a Polish father who was a cartographer. They lived in the bush while Cierach's father mapped large parts of east and southern Africa. Although Cierach says she often ran around naked as a child, "On those occasions when we did wear clothes, Mother sewed for us," Cierach remembers. Although her mother taught her to sew, Cierach took a course at the London College of Fashion to learn the technical side while she was working at British Vogue. She started making ready-to-wear six months, but still does custom work for some clients. Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor carry her designs.

Cierach showed her collection recently to a small group of reporters. Her clothes are primarily for evening, many of them short and some of the best almost like tutus -- tight to the body with short ruffled skirts that burst out below the hip.

According to Cierach, short dresses are totally appropriate for a ball. "In fact, for evening you can go micro-mini short," she says. "But you have to have a lot of confidence to wear a short skirt."

Cierach, who is frequently in Washington visiting her cardiologist boyfriend, Dr. Terence Bertele, has been wearing her skirts short for six months. But recently she had her hems shortened again, this time as much as eight inches. "I can't believe that in just six months a knee-length skirt could come to seem so dowdy."


Premier Editions Notice how dapper Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has been looking recently? We now know that he has ordered several suits from the prestige Savile Row tailor Gieves & Hawkes. According to Robert Gieves, vice chairman and fifth-generation family member in the business, Gorbachev dispached emissaries to the shop with his measurements and an order for three suits and a coat.

Gorbachev is in good company. Among those who wear clothes and accessories from Gieves & Hawkes are Joel Grey, Ambassador to Great Britain Charles Price and Ronald Reagan. The firm was the sole outfitter for the U.S. Naval Academy from 1928 to 1937, before the American garment workers insisted that their naval students wear clothes by an American firm. "Our uniforms were impounded by customs that last year," said Gieves. "It was the first time that the ensigns at Annapolis were in less than full dress."


Star Lights

They trotted out the celebs to brighten up the London designer shows last week. Simon LeBon was in the audience of the Alistair Blair show to watch his wife Yasmin, a model. Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's 17-year-old pouty blond former girlfriend, Mandy Smith, was in the Katharine Hamnett show. And Boy George sang along to a tape in the Brompton Arcade next to Joseph Ettedgui's newest shop. Boy George overheard an American accent from a guest standing near him and tapped the young woman on the shoulder and said: "It's not your fault that you were born American."


Personal Latitudes The invitation to the Body Map booth at Olympia asked the guests to come see "Stevie & David exclusively." "We've had backers and now we are going it alone again," said David Holah. "We're back to where we started in 1984 and we're glad about it."

Body Map was the hot and provocative new firm that got snapped up by an American company and went nowhere fast. "They did us a bad turn," says Holah.

Now he and Stevie Stewart are back doing what they do best and have always done -- clothes in stretch fabrics. Their new fabric is silk Lycra, which they team with shiny satin-finished washed silk in a pretty rosy pink.

Virtually starting over, they were too short of money this season to put on a show on a catwalk. "I really miss it," says Holah. "To show clothes on a hanger is one thing. But to see them on a body -- on a beautiful, flowing and moving thing -- well, that's something quite different and wonderful."


Sheer Plattery

Do fashion plates catch your eye? Now you can collect them. Luciana Martinez de la Rosa got her artist friends to design plates for her. They were such a hit that she comissioned even more. The Rifat Ozbek plate has the small symbol of Turkey on the rim, Manolo Blahnik's plate is a splashy drawing of a shoe, and Vivienne Westwood's plate has her signature -- a world symbol. These and plates by by Jasper Conran, Zandra Rhodes and others will be carried in all the Willi Smith stores -- appropriately, since Smith always boosted his artist friends through his T-shirt designs.

Notes de la Mode:

Why did Vivienne Westwood call her collection "England Goes Pagan"? Said the designer after the show, "Well, paganism is better than ... puritanism. But it is much more than that." Along with some wonderfully tailored suits and coats, Westwood showed togas and stuffed foam rubber balls under the backs of skirts "to call attention to the bustle effect," she said.

While the princess of Wales has given a major psychological and promotional boost to English fashion, Prince Charles is doing his part, too. Several young designers, including Lesley Mensch and Carol Sewell of The Poise, David Campbell and Merle Dalton, have gotten a "leg up" from the Prince's Youth Business Trust, which helps businesses get started with grants and business advice.

Murray Arbeid likes women to look pretty and sound noisy. "From a distance it is nice to see a quiet dress," says Arbeid, who makes dresses for many of the royals as well as for Saks Fifth Avenue. "But with a full skirt and petticoat you also sound so nice."

Belts by Alistair Blair first included his name in bold letters. Now Pink Soda, the master knock-off artists in London, has translated the idea into big business. Its waisted words include "yuppie" and "chic."

Big changeover at Harrods this week: The department store's new owner, Egyptian entrepreneur Mohamed Al-Fayed, has named himself to succeed Brian Walsh as chief executive. Al-Fayad told a London paper, "I'm a hard person to please. I always want the ultimate in perfection."