Two words sum up New York's recent spring fashion shows: pecking order. As more celebrities than ever crowded under the white tents in midtown Manhattan, necks constantly strained to see who was seated where. At Todd Oldham, supermodel Elle Macpherson won a front-row seat; Arnelle Simpson was forced to stand. At Isaac (Unzipped) Mizrahi, Marla Maples settled for row 2. As the week wore on, the star scene which included Drew Barrymore, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lukas Haas, Tim Roth, Anthony Kiedis, and Julia Ormond seriously rivaled the collections, which shucked retro outrage for modern, casual looks. Among the trendsetters and trendsetting:
1.-5. THE FRONT-ROW PHALANX Sandra Bullock caught the latest looks suede hip-huggers, citrus-striped dresses, and low-slung skirts at Calvin Klein. But don't expect to see her on a runway soon. Or ever. ''Nobody would want me to model in a show,'' she said. ''They know how elegant I am walking up a flight of stairs.''
To keep paparazzi at bay, a mini security force accomplished a celebrity drop at former L.A. designer Mark Eisen's show, rushing Goldie Hawn to her seat just as the lights went down and yanking her backstage the second the show ended. Soon they'll be swinging stars in on cranes.
Matt Dillon Nicole Kidman's poorly dressed bitter half in To Die For watched a parade of floral shirtdresses and cashmere cardigans at Marc Jacobs, the former Perry Ellis designer now in his second year on his own.
When Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts made a joint appearance at Oldham, Roberts was wearing one of the hottest looks for next spring, the chartreuse satin shirt. Aren't fashion designers supposed to be one step ahead of celebrities?
6. SUPERMODELS AREN'T OVER At least not at Oldham's show, where Cindy Crawford and Nadja Auermann reigned before a backdrop comprising more than 1,700 different colors. The pattern, displayed on suits and dresses, is the designer's most innovative print yet.
7. SUPERMODELS ARE OVER At Nicole Miller, the designer famous for her trendy prints, Circle of Friends' now-svelte Minnie Driver ruled the runway, along with Rebecca Gayheart of Beverly Hills, 90210, Jill Hennessy of Law & Order, Maxine Bahns of The Brothers McMullen, and Gina Gershon, whose program credits somehow failed to mention her recent clothes-free flop, Showgirls. Other models-for-a-day included Kids' Chloe Sevigny at Miu Miu, Prada's lower-priced line, and Claire Danes at Cynthia Rowley, a designer given to pun-filled descriptions of outfits (''My So-Called Knit Tube Top''). ''The first dress I wore I was really afraid was going to fall off,'' said Danes. ''I actually made them tape it so it wouldn't.''
8. ONE MORE TIME Chartreuse satin showed up on up-and-coming model Kirsty Hume at Donna Karan, whose star admirers included Hawn and Liza Minnelli.
9. THE ITALIAN INCURSION Gianni Versace opened the week with Versus, a younger label designed by his sister, Donatella. His outfit for Naomi Campbell, mixing stripes with plaid, looks ready for Clueless 2.
10. TEEN BEAT I Model-singer-actress Milla Jovovich, 19, is long on triple plays, short on diplomacy. She walked runways for the first time (here for Liza Bruce), just shot Calvin Klein's Escape fragrance campaign, and taped segments for MTV's Fashionably Loud, a combined fashion show and concert that united Oldham, Jacobs, and Anna Sui with Coolio, Filter, and Elastica. "It was one of the funnest shows," she said, "but when you put music, which is something that's so real, with something that's as superficial as just clothes, it gets a little trite."
11. TEEN BEAT II Singer Brandy, 16, modeled at Girls Rule!, a presentation of five street-wear designers, and also met Brandi, a favorite House of Chanel model. "I screamed her name," the singer said. "She gave me a thumbs-up, and I gave it back to her."
12. THE PLAID FAD Cooler in hand, James Iha, guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins, worked the preppy beach-bum look at Anna Sui. His review of his first runway experience said as much about the week: "It was didactic, allegorical, and crazy."
(Additional reporting by Ramiro Fernandez)