February 03, 1975 12:00 PM

When Betty Ford announced last November that, as her small contribution to the battle against inflation, she would no longer spend money on expensive designer clothes, it won her no WIN buttons in the fashion world, which then sat back to see just exactly what the First Lady would buy. Apparently Mrs. Ford, long a devotee of stylish clothing, was wondering too.

The question was answered recently when she spotted several designs by a young American designer named Albert Capraro in a Washington newspaper. Impressed by his price range (a moderate $80 for day dresses, up to $200 for evening gowns), by his use of American fabrics only, and the attractiveness of the designs themselves, she summoned the 31-year-old, New York born unknown to the White House to sound him out on her spring wardrobe. Opening her closets to show him clothes she liked best, she singled out two Oscar de la Rentas. To their mutual surprise, both had been designed by Capraro himself back when he was a De la Renta assistant. He struck out on his own in July of last year.

By the end of the visit, Mrs. Ford had ordered 12 styles from Capraro—all softer and more casual than she has worn before, and all with hemlines comfortably covering the knee. Her recent breast removal operation will limit her selection scarcely at all, says Capraro. “She can wear V necks, but not plunging too far. Sleeveless gowns are fine, but with a soft veiling. She’ll wear backless gowns, but not strapless; I don’t think she’d want to.”

With the exception of five evening gowns Capraro will make up especially for state dinners—using fabrics the President brought from the Far East—all her clothes will be off-the-rack selections, and will cost regular retail prices, which suits her economy-minded husband just fine. “I just hope you didn’t buy too many,” grumbled the President good naturedly.

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