From Russia With Punk

If Soviet fashion sounds like a contradiction in terms, consider Katia Filippova's imperialist tendencies. The Soviet designer, a favorite among rock stars back home in Moscow, has found both success and irony in czarist luxury. An excess of faux jewels, a certain Byzantine splendor, the high peaked helmets of Russian Orthodox priests -- these are her favorite symbols. "I am indifferent to politics," she said last week during a visit to Washington. "But strange as it may sound, I feel things in my skin. I sensed, for example, the popular sentiment toward the monarchy, and I just responded to it in my fashion."

Filippova's fashion response hasn't gone unnoticed in the West, either. Her clothes have been displayed -- and bought -- by department stores in London and Paris, and she's the subject of a lengthy chapter in Artemy Troitsky's "Who's Who in the New Soviet Rock Culture." Aside from her royalist parodies, she's also had a go at Soviet military uniforms. "A few years ago my clothes would have been considered anti-Soviet," she admits. Now they are accepted Stalinist punk.

Comic Relief

So chic! So cute! So Barbie!

So chic! So cute! So Barbie!

Now the doll with 6,000 outfits has her very own Marvel comic book of "stylish stories and trend-setting tips." In her maiden issue, on sale this month for $1, Barbie meets Marilyn, the buyer from "Blumdale's," and tells pal Skipper not to worry about the grape jelly she spilled on her white sweater. "It's completely washable and stain-resistant!" gushes Barbie. "You can't ruin it!"

What Barbie knows about wash-and-wear comes from Lisa Trusiani, a Baltimore writer who has been boning up on fashion since she got the Marvel assignment, and Anna-Maria B. Cool, an illustrator based in Kansas. With guidance from Mattel's catalogues, they dress Barbie and her friends in rhinestones, minis, leggings and white cowboy boots. "Nothing too way out," says Cool, who personally prefers Donna Karan. For an upcoming issue set in New York, Barbie goes to the opening of a fashion exhibit as a Byzantine queen. "I took the idea for that costume from a history book," says Trusiani, who had the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute in mind. "I wanted to show kids that fashion is also a legitimate form of art."

Even in comic books.

Dixon's In-House Designer

Sharon Pratt Dixon has made her first unofficial appointment: She's asked her 22-year-old daughter, Aimee, to design her inaugural ball gown. A spring graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design with a major in apparel design, Aimee was the obvious, if not sentimental, choice to make the red rayon crepe gown with full black taffeta sleeves and jewel-clasp cuffs that Dixon will wear on Jan. 2. Her other ensemble that day will be a suit, most likely covered by a coat by Karl Lagerfeld.

For Aimee, the gown marks the official start of a fashion career. Once things have settled down in Washington, she's planning to look for a design job in New York. "I'd like to work for one of the bigger fashion companies, such as Liz Claiborne, rather than a high-fashion house," she says.

A Clash of Egos

Dish, dish. Fashion people are still talking about back-to-back stories that appeared in Women's Wear Daily two days after Seventh on Sale raised $4.5 million for AIDS relief. Just whose idea was the mega-sale anyway? "The success of the event is entirely due to Donna Karan," said Oscar de la Renta. "It was her idea." Carolina Herrera seconded the notion. Even Karan herself was willing to take credit. But the next day brought a clarification from de la Renta: "Carolyne Roehm did a spectacular job with the Seventh on Sale. Without her it would never have happened." Women's Wear simultaneously reported that Roehm was stepping down as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America to devote more time to her business. Karan, meanwhile, has been offered the post.

Which still doesn't answer the question. But does anyone care?

Gift Books With Great Looks

What would the holidays be without a designer or two? Among the few but influential fashion books on the yuletide list is "Images of Man," Giorgio Armani's exhaustive hunk-a-minute collection of advertising photographs. Taken over the past 15 years by photographer Aldo Fallai and styled by Armani, the pictures convey more than softer shoulders and contrived nonchalance. Armani's models are, and always have been, the quintessential Euro jocks -- even undressed they manage to look ambivalent yet game. They love women, floppy hats, puppies and, most of all, themselves in the eye of the camera. The book, which coincides with an exhibit at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology through Jan. 12, is $50 from Rizzoli.

For those who prefer to read about '60s fashion rather than wear it, Joe Lobenthal has rounded up the decade's usual suspects for a definitive study of mods, rockers and hippies. Ten years in the making, "Radical Rags" (Abbeville Press, $29.95) gives perspective to an era that began with Mary Quant and ended, more or less, with the midi fiasco. Lobenthal interviewed scores of key players -- from models to media mavens -- and selected photographs that offer a creative counterpoint to the current '60s rehash.

More of-the-moment is Roxanne Lowit's exhilarating documentary of the '80s. Her photographs of drag queens, socialites, designers and stylish dwarfs give "Moments" a breathless intensity -- a kiss-kiss rush of familiar faces -- that makes for a strange kind of intimacy. The book is a valuable reference on the era, the visual annotation of Andy Warhol's diary. Published by Editions Assouline in France, it's available only at Rizzoli stores for $50, though Lowit expects wider distribution early next year.

Petite Repeat

Miniature fashion is the subject of the current costume exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. First mounted in 1945 to show the world that French fashion had survived the war, "Theatre de la Mode" is a wonderful display of haute couture glamour on 30-inch wire mannequins. Designers such as Schiaparelli and Balenciaga rallied to the cause, creating the latest fashions -- even gloves and shoes -- in diminutive scale. The exhibit at the Costume Institute runs though April 14.