The mothers and friends in the audience didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Nevertheless, most of the time they were in stitches as probably the youngest (some models were younger than 2) fashion show ever at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, proceeded this week. We're talking about the Costume Council's "Florence Eiseman: Past and Present," coordinated by Saks Fifth Avenue.
Chairman Mrs. Daniel R. Burschinger had a full house to announce that two special pieces from the new collection will join the Costume Council archives. One is a classic navy wool dress with soft folds in the skirt and sleeves, a velvet belt at the tummy and a pink organdy rose at the throat. The other is a pink silk taffeta party dress with a delicate Swiss organdy lace collar.
Though Mrs. Eiseman, now 85, didn't make the trip, her son Laurence, the manufacturing manager in Milwaukee, factory headquarters, was on stage, explaining the Eiseman charisma--understatement, simple lines, clear colors, generous cut (and wide hems).
And council chairman Mrs. Miguel Llanos was in the first rows to give an encouraging hand to the tots who looked upon the ramp as a gangplank and to guide them through their perils.
A tear, or two, yes. A temper tantrum, yes. A classic case of thwarted sibling rivalry, yes. Courage and lots of laughter. Emily Meyer, 2 1/2, daughter of Raylene and Bruce Meyer, stole the show with Courtney Pace, 3, whose mother, Mrs. Russell Pace, missed the occasion because it was her day to come home from the hospital with a new baby. But, Courtney and Emily blew hundreds of kisses and waved to the audience with hilarious frivolity.
Emily was the No. 1 child on the ramp, too, wearing a red, white and blue tank swimsuit from the museum's archives. It was a tough job, clapping with the audience and keeping her plastic inner tube at waist height at the same time.
Mothers, godmothers and a huge number of council members were heavy on the camera and full of pride: among the crowd were Mrs. John Shea, there to see daughter Dorothy model, and accompanied by daughter Maura, 14, and Dorothy's godmother, Mrs. Nicholas Weber. Nancy Powell, wife of museum director Rusty Powell (they're expecting a baby in November), was in the audience to see Channing and Courtney. JoAnn Ratkovich later tied a balloon around the wrist of Lindsay, 4, and told her she was "great." Nelly Llanos' grandchildren, Nicole and Kristen, got a special hand and a grin from mother Bea Wallace.
More mother/child combos included Mrs. John Cameron with Lauren and Crosby; Cuchie Clark and Sydney; Becky Garnett with Cameron; Georgie Hamlin with Elizabeth, Megan, Katie and Coleen; Karen Harp with Michele and Lauren (who wore the blue dress being donated); Terry Hayes with Jessica; Eileen Jones with Julie; Patsy Lawry with Katie; Susan Leibfritz with Timothy and Nicholas; Christine Meyer with Carinne (she wore the pink dress) and Colette; Nancy Meyer with Wes; Beth Montaneo with Kelly and Angela; Eva Petersen with Ashley; Susan Reinstein with Kate; Susan Tuttle with Elizabeth and Kimberly; Brook Young with Ashley.
Eiseman told the audience, "The low-waisted look is back," just like 1955. An all-cotton gingham number was an audience favorite.
During the show, Patty Burschinger had daughter Mrs. Hunt Williams to help her get the kiddies on stage, blowing bubbles and all. And, before she headed for the tea, chairman Burschinger was distributing cellophane packages of bubble soaps to the youngsters and giving them hugs.
At the tea, next year's program chairman Mrs. Franklin Johnson looked to the future. As a clue, she has a meeting next week with Amen Wardy. And Mrs. Norman Mitchell and Carey, Patricia Kennedy, Mrs. Clark Smith, Joan Kardashian and Helen Bing talked about their favorite Florence Eisemans. Helen and Mimi Howes had dug through favorite things to contribute child classics to the show.
Denver Art Museum did an Eiseman retrospective in 1984. Milwaukee is planning its own in August for the little lady who got her first order ($3,000) from Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago in 1945, as a try at making a little extra money.
Get ready for a new museum: the Museum of Childhood. It opens, sans a permanent site or organized funding, with an inaugural exhibition Sunday at 2 p.m. at Van de Kamp Hall in Descanso Gardens in La Canada.
More than 20 doll, toy and train collectors from Southern California are loaning 300 objects. They'll include the miniature furnishings from the collection of Penny Ashkenazy of Beverly Hills, antique Sicilian puppets, 3 feet tall, from the collections of Ann and Monroe Morgan and Linda and Sherman Mickell of West Los Angeles, and tin toys dating from the 1920s belonging to Marina del Rey collector Jacob Bloom.
Laura Hardyman's Victorian doll wedding scene, actress Jane Withers' doll furnishings, an elaborate train collection focusing on American Flyer manufactured items and antique European dolls and antique mechanical banks are in the show.