Around Town : Night and Day Designs : Nancy Johnson: Her clothes for special occasions dwell heavily on the past, from a '20s-inspired silk crepe chemise to an Empire dress from the '60s society set.

Designer Nancy Johnson's nostalgic tea dresses and feminine frocks fill antique-strewn salons at Harrods in London and Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, where she recently introduced Premiere, her first collection of evening wear.

An avid collector of period gowns, which she finds in European antique stores and Los Angeles estate sales, Johnson is enthralled with the past. Her new evening wear is inspired by glamorous women through the ages.

From the flappers of the '20s comes a black sequined silk crepe chemise; from the '60s society set, a velvet Empire dress with sheer floral beaded bodice and sleeves.

Even modern-day Tinseltown is represented, with beaded chiffon bodysuits worn under short sarong skirts or palazzos.

Many pieces have matching stoles, opera capes or embellished jackets. Prices range from $190 to $600.

Johnson heads a $25-million empire and attends many formal events. She likes to make an entrance.

"The dress shouldn't draw attention to itself but to its wearer," she says.

"It's part of the whole picture. We notice the woman and say, 'isn't she glamorous?' "

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