Details, Elegant Gowns Dress Up Fashion Show

Talk about detail. It made the difference on Monday, when the Sophisticates swept into a cocktail supper/fashion show at Neiman Marcus Fashion Island.

Bouquets of towering scarlet roses graced the buffet tables. So did breathtaking pieces of Lalique crystal. Each guest was greeted by Sophisticates president Cathy Lowden--stunning in clingy caramel silk jersey by Donna Karan--and event chairwoman Martha Green, equally stunning in a white pants ensemble by Valentino.

A groaning board of waist-conscious items was up for sampling, including a pyramid of fresh fruit and steaming mushrooms presented sans fatty filling. A one-man show--Ron Johnson at the keyboard--provided unobtrusive background music. And mingling with guests--the most important detail of all--was designer Nolan Miller, creator of show-stopping fashions for "Dynasty," "Charlie's Angels" and the "Love Boat" (not to mention the legendary screen goddesses Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Natalie Wood, Ginger Rogers, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck).

"I love a woman to be subtle and elegant in suits or silk shirts and trousers during the day," Miller said during the cocktail reception that saw guests sipping bubbly beside cosmetic and jewelry counters. "But when the clock strikes five, I love magic!"

After guests had wined and dined, they settled back on white folding chairs to watch an "International Fashion Extravaganza" that showcased after-five creations from designers such as Bob Mackie, Carolina Herrera, Carolyne Roehm, Stephen Yearick and Mary McFadden. The grand finale featured dramatic, sweeping gowns by Miller, part of his first-ever evening spring couture collection.

All of them have a "body line," Miller said, a silhouette "that is not sexy, but sensuous."

"I like fabrics that fall to the body and flatter. The best compliment I can receive from a woman is her husband said she looked sensational in one of my things. When Ol' Charlie sits up and takes notice, that's a successful dress."

Asked about fashion do's and don'ts, Miller said: "No matter what fashion dictates, a woman should take a current look and adjust it to her own style. And a woman should never buy a dress because of a label. You buy what looks good on you."

The Sophisticates are a fund-raising support group of the Assessment and Treatment Services Center of Santa Ana, a counseling organization that lives by the motto "Arrest the Problem, Not the Child."

"We provide free counseling for the whole family," Cathy Lowden told the 100-strong crowd. "They are the core of the United States, a core that is being destroyed. Our job is to help put families back together again."

A midwinter night's party: "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream" was a play in two acts, and so was the party that surrounded it on Friday night in Costa Mesa. Act 1 of the bash for playgoers took place at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel, where South Coast Repertory donors such as Renee and Henry Segerstrom feasted on pasta and Peking duck crepes while they rubbed elbows with play director, Paul Marcus. After the play, guests convened in the lobby for Act 2 of the bash, staged by the Theatre Guild of SCR.

Marcus, a Brit, said his expectant wife was enduring the unforgiving winds that had been sweeping London streets. "And I'm surviving earthquakes," he said. "I feel I have completed the California experience!"

Of his avant-garde production of "A Mid-Summer Night's Dream," Marcus said: "It's about the dreams we all have. We all can relate. I hope everybody comes away from this play feeling something different."

SCR producing artistic director David Emmes said Marcus was a director who made "Shakespeare seem like a living, vibrant, urban playwright. He is presenting the play, not in a museumlike, dust-covered way, but in a way full of style and vitality."

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