TAKING COVER: Retired design great James Galanos recently lamented in these columns that “fashion is geared only to young people today. All I see is Levi’s and bare bellies.” Well, there were none of those at Ralph Rucci’s Chado couture show on Thursday, where Galanos turned up in the front row to applaud. “I just met him less than a year ago,” he said of Rucci. “I have a great admiration for him. He has great style and taste. The clients, they need him.”

A-MUSING: Loulou de la Falaise, the former Yves Saint Laurent muse and collaborator who launched her signature line and Paris boutique four months ago, is coming to America. Bergdorf Goodman struck a deal to carry her collection exclusively in the U.S., beginning next spring, with a trunk show and personal appearance planned for this fall. “Not everyone has to have a runway show,” said Robert Burke, Bergdorf’s vice president and senior fashion director. “I was so impressed.” He noted that de la Falaise’s collection and jewelry would be housed near such collections as Valentino, Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass.

DOLL FACE: Barbie’s fashion makeover is going dramatically upscale. For years, the poor girl could only get Bob Mackie to design her gowns, but come September, Mattel plans to introduce a simple beaded gray gown designed by Giorgio Armani. The dress was inspired by one of the gowns featured in his touring exhibition, although Barbie’s version only costs $134.99. But Armani is hardly selling out — the designer said he would turn over his royalties from sales of the Armani Barbie to YouthAIDS and Room to Grow.

AN OPEN BOOK: Queen Elizabeth has chosen William Shawcross to write the official biography of the late Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Shawcross is a former Sunday Times foreign correspondent and son of Hartley Shawcross, the chief British prosecutor at the Nuremberg war trials. The news should come as no surprise: William Shawcross wrote the very flattering television series and book “Queen and Country” to mark the Golden Jubilee last year. He has also written biographies of Rupert Murdoch, the Shah of Iran and Alexander Dubcek.

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