NEW YORK -- The Italian designer Valentino, who dresses some of the world's richest women, has dipped into nostalgia to show good designs are never dated.
He took over an American institution for an evening, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to show off his extravagant collection for fall and winter 1982-83.
While at it, he gave a new look to many of the classics of dressmaking that some designers would label passe.
Valentino loves peplums, be they small, medium or downright exaggerated; ruffles from a tiny cascade to an entire dress made of tiers of them; the 'little black dress' that used to be the basic of every woman's wardrobe; the boldness of the deeply slashed skirt, cut high up the leg at either front or sides; the evening sheath tight as any movie siren such as Marilyn Monroe would wear.
And HATS -- after seeing the Valentino collection you ask, why did hats go into limbo for such a long time?
Valentino took over the main hall of the museum for a reception for 800 and then converted the adjacent pool room into a stage for showing some 180 designs from day dresses to extravagant evening wear, followed by a dinner for a select list.
Valentino's spokeswoman, Eve Orton, declined to discuss money but other sources in the fashion trade estimated the cost of the event at $750,000. It was a private party, not a charity event, and turned the staid Met great hall into a celebrity watching session.
Photographers at the reception mobbed Muhammad Ali, Brooke Shields, Raquel Welch, Monique Van Voreen (wearing a sleek black sequined formal she said was a 10-year-old Valentino), Mikhail Baryshnikov, artistic director of the American Ballet Theatre who did a brief appearance on the fashion runway, and Spencer Haywood, the professional basketball player whose wife, Iman, was one of 26 models in the show.
The hats were Valentino designs, mostly felts in mannish shapes like the bowler and narrow-brimmed sailor, which were the finishing touches to daytime outfits. They looked very 1982.
The Valentino mood for the new season is a somber colored one, as in paisley gray prints, paired with gray plaids, plenty of black for both day and evening, black and white combinations for a bit of a break as in the black velvet late day dresses with the big white ruffles at the neckline.
An American beauty pink satin cummerbund sashed a slim black formal. And a few of the lush-looking formal gowns were skinny black velvet tops with boldly striped taffeta skirts, ballooning for a grand entrance.
Some of the peplums (short, skirt-like additions falling from the natural waistline) were ruffled, flared or pleated. Some were so starched looking they resembled a ballerina's tutu gone astray.
Valentino is known for the most expensive fabrics and workmanship. And the prices keep pace. One trade source said a dress from his couture collection shown in Italy in July had gone for $100,000.