Designer's Garment Joins Art Collection : David Hayes Ensemble to Go to Costume Dept. of L.A. County Museum

It probably won't increase the value of a David Hayes suit, but an ensemble by the Los Angeles designer has just become a museum piece.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Costume and Textile Department will receive a donation of a garment designed by David Hayes as soon as Nancy Reagan decides the one she is willing to part with from her closet.

"It will probably be something she's worn to death," the designer, who is known for his ladylike suits, surmised.

Hayes has enjoyed the distinction of being among the fashion-conscious First Lady's chosen designers ever since she first hit the presidential campaign trail with her husband. The museum's costume department already houses Nancy Reagan outfits designed by her three other pet fashion designers--two by Adolfo, two by Bill Blass and three by James Galanos. The addition of a David Hayes, says Edward Maeder, curator of the department, will "round out" the collection.

"It's very lofty," Hayes said of the honor during a visit to Bullocks Wilshire, where his spring collection is available. "My psyche doesn't believe this is happening to me. I should see a doctor. I pinch myself so many times saying: 'David, you're so lucky.' "

Indeed, even though Mrs. Reagan has been a steady customer, Hayes still seems in awe of their relationship. "She's wonderful and marvelous," he said enthusiastically. But he never calls her to present her with advance sketches or videos of his collections, because he feels it would be an imposition on her time. Instead, he waits until he hears from her first.

"She'll see something in Town & Country and have her secretary call me, or she'll say: 'I saw that dress--is it available in a Size 2?' " he explained. "She used to be a 6. I think she's too thin."

When Hayes designs, he keeps in mind that some of his other customers have hips and rears. Pointing to a wide-legged white pant ("not a palazzo") from his spring collection--a pant that's shown with a pastel, print silk camisole and matching sequined jacket--he remarks that the pants are cut for women who want it "easy at the waist, so they can have a couple of martinis."

This season, skirts are either short and straight, or longer and pleated or flared at the bottom. In either case they're made, as Hayes put it, "so women can have hips, which they have.

"That hourglass thing is definitely coming back," he said of figure-emphasizing clothes. The newest suits have fitted peplum jackets and narrow skirts that are tight around the knees. "Remember recently everything was blouson, blouson, blouson? Now everything's the waist and hips. Big shoulders are out."

Prices are always kept under $1,000 because the designer wants his clothes to appeal to "that gal with two kids making the house payments and the guy's on the way up. I think she shouldn't spend more than that."

Although Hayes is famous for his suits, he said his bread-and-butter dress is a straight gabardine shirtdress with gold buttons, which he likes to see accessorized with fake jewelry.

But that's not what Linda Evans bought from him. Her choices for spring were: a banana gabardine dress with a deep slit, asymmetrical collar and shoulder pads ("it sounds terrible but it works"), a royal blue silk peplum suit and, for evening, those roomy white pants worn with a sequined jacket.

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