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Heavens to Betsey

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — God bless her! Not many 60-year-olds would invite hundreds of friends, business associates and members of the press to tramp through their house and garden and sit poolside to watch 30-odd, scantily-clad models on parade....

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EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — God bless her! Not many 60-year-olds would invite hundreds of friends, business associates and members of the press to tramp through their house and garden and sit poolside to watch 30-odd, scantily-clad models on parade. But for Betsey Johnson, it was business as usual. In characteristically girly, feminine style, the designer showed her spring 2003 collection, called “My Blue Heaven,” at her eponymous place in East Hampton on Saturday. The event, which drew about 275 people, also celebrated her 60th birthday and her 24th anniversary in business on her own. It all began with Johnson showing a couple of camera crews the vignettes of models who had been styled to go with each room and garden spot. There were naughty twins, for example, reading tabloids and watching “The Parent Trap” in dresses that matched the couch in the TV room and a Little Miss Muffet, corset minidress and all, feeding curds to a spider in the garden.

For runway inspiration, Johnson looked to her Eighties successes — cotton and Lycra dresses with oversized floral prints and enough pouf skirts and tutus to fill a recital hall, along with belly-baring corsets that would have made Queen Victoria blush. On a more exotic note, the designer also showed harem-pants-style knickers and batik or tie-dyed satin dresses and tops. After each girl walked once, she exited to a blue cabana poolside and donned a swimsuit that coordinated with her original look, then lined up pageant-style, perhaps signaling that there’s a swimwear license in Johnson’s future.

To make the show more memorable, Betsey not only cartwheeled once at the end, as she always does, but on her second turn sprang straight into the pool, blue tulle skirt and velvet corset be damned. Still dripping wet, Johnson continued to do interviews and pose for photos, saying, “You can all come for my 70th!” And surely they will.

This story first appeared in the August 13, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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