It's Surreal Thing: Scenes From an Exhibition

There's a hat that's a miniature satin sofa by Karl Lagerfeld. Another hat, by Christian Lacroix, has a rose growing out of it. There's a jacket of ivy leaves and another in a pattern of bricks, both by Adelle Lutz for the movie "True Stories." An evening dress by Yves Saint Laurent incorporates a gold body sculpture of a woman's breasts. Are these clothes for real?

Surreal, in fact. They are part of the current remarkable exhibition called "Fashion and Surrealism" at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Pierre Berge gave Stephen di Pietri at YSL a leave of absence to do the show's creative surreal installation. It shouldn't be missed.

Once thought of as an influence mainly on fine art and literature, surrealism has had a considerable influence on fashion. The wit of Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali, incorporated in the surrealistic designs of Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s, is always mentioned by designers Geoffrey Beene and Saint Laurent as a source of inspiration.

Few surrealists are still alive, but their wives are, says Laura Sinderbrand, director of the design laboratory at FIT. "And when you speak with Juliette Man Ray, you realize it was a way of life. There was no separation between their private and public life. And clothes are an important part of it ... dressing up for the parties was an aspect of their work in surrealism."

Some of the items in the show, like the Jean Paul Gaultier jacket with bones on the outside, have a disturbing quality. "I think surrealism is meant to be disturbing and unsettling. It's meant to have its dark side, very clearly," says Sinderbrand.

If you don't get to the show, and even if you do, there is a very worthy book by FIT's Richard Martin, called "Fashion and Surrealism" (Rizzoli), which includes many of the wild and extravagant images of surrealism. The show continues at FIT until Jan. 23, and then travels to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Cassini Royalties

"I'm a gnat and he's a giant," says Jane Sloane Casini referring to Oleg Cassini, who has taken her to court to keep her from using the name he fears some will confuse with his. Jane Casini comes by the name from her former husband Mauro Casini, with whom she had a leather business in Florence before opening a shop for designer accessories in Georgetown in 1984. Her peak business has been $400,000 in volume in one year; Oleg Cassini, with all his licensees, will do about $400 million this year.

Oleg Cassini learned about Jane Casini when his clipping service sent him a clip of an editorial credit for a bathing suit in Washington Woman magazine last April. Jane Casini knew about Oleg Cassini because her mother used to wear his clothes.

According to his Chicago-based lawyer, Joseph Schmidt, "Oleg Cassini is afraid someone might think that Jane Casini is a relative. He respects her right to do business, but in a small way. Oleg Cassini told the judge that he might want to open stores under his own name in the way that Ralph Lauren, Chanel and Valentino have done even though they also sell to department stores."

"As long as she stays small she won't affect us," says Schmidt, adding, "Y'know, enough ants can topple an elephant." Buttons, Bows, & More Bows

After bows, what? "More bows," says local accessories designer Andrea Chafitz. "But the bows must be well made in unusual fabrics and ornaments." Coming up are cocardes, an old French ribbon art Chafitz describes as a "purposeful accumulation of ribbon." Softly folded in a half of full circle with a center ornament, Chafitz's cocardes are in taffeta, moire and velvet for the holidays, decorated with antique buttons or other doodads. Stores like Neiman-Marcus, I. Magnin, Saks Fifth Avenue and Helga O have been selling these versatile, decorative pieces, priced from $55 to $200, for the hair, the neckline or on hats. Like bows, the best sellers are always black.The Diana Dinner

However glamorous, there's no substitute for a real dinner with D.V.

The ladies in Lacroix bloomed from black limos last week as the Met Set arrived for its annual gala, always on the first Monday night in December. This year, the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute's party was called "A dinner with D.V." It was an homage to fashion deity Diana ("dee-AH-na") Vreeland, who has been cooking up the Met's successful costume shows for the past 15 years.

Vreeland, in her late eighties, was not well enough to come to the dinner, but called constantly during the preparations and exerted her usual inimitable influence on the evening.

The 750 fashion and society celebrities who paid $850 a ticket dined in rooms done up in Vreeland's favorite colors -- Chinese red and turquoise. "It's a pastiche of Mrs. Vreeland's apartment and of her office at Vogue," said Pat Buckley, in her 10th year as chairman of New York's party of the year.

President and Nancy Reagan sent a letter of congratulations to Vreeland, the former fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar and Vogue magazines, noting her "exquisite taste and unerring instinct for style." Grandson Alexander Vreeland, who went to the fe~te along with the rest of the Vreeland entourage, said although his grandmother remained at home, "she's absolutely ecstatic."

"I need a lot of fanfare," she once told an interviewer. "No question about it."Notes de la Mode

Karl Lagerfeld has spoken out on why he put mini square-dance skirts, anklets and Mary Janes on the Chanel models for spring, making them look quite childish -- at very grown-up prices. He told United Press International that his muse, model Ines de la Fressange, was too busy to be around to inspire him. "I made them {Chanel} a collection completely different and nearly impossible for Ines to wear." And not so easy for others, either.

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall? It's an old joke, but Roger Nickels, who for 10 years was men's regional director at Hecht's, says there is no humor in his answer. Last Sunday he was on stage at Carnegie Hall for the fashion retailers joint effort on behalf of AIDS called "90 Minutes for Life." Nickels has been diagnosed with AIDS.