Miss Selfridge is not a starlet or a rock star or the latest addition to the "Dynasty" lineup.
Miss Selfridge isn't even a person. Instead, she, it , is a type. A look. Young and trendy. On the cutting edge of hip.
Until now you could only get the look if you shopped at one of the Miss Selfridge shops in the United Kingdom. But this month, Miss Selfridge clothing, accessories and makeup have been transplanted to 500 J.C. Penney stores nationwide as part of the "Best of Britain" promotion through Nov. 9.
Miss Selfridge is not only geared to a precise age group (15 to 25) and size range (clothes come in small, medium and large, the large being comparable to a junior Size 13), but Miss Selfridge also represents a distinct fashion attitude.
"We think she has a certain aura about her that is recognizable--she's independent. She doesn't want to shop with her mother. She wants to be herself," Miss Selfridge fashion director Kate Morris says, describing a typical customer.
Being of the right age, size and fashion attitude, Princess Diana has even done some Miss Selfridge shopping. If only she hadn't married Prince Charles and become the future queen, Morris suggests that Diana probably would have become a regular.
But tree-planting ceremonies and white-tie dinners are not normally included in a Miss Selfridge customer's day. Prices range from $24 to $52, and the clothes are designed to be worn today, forgotten tomorrow.
"These are not investment clothes--that's the last thing they are," Morris says. There may be a few items you would want to keep from season to season, such as a black turtleneck sweater, but those are the exceptions, she says. Otherwise, on the docket this month are stirrup pants, tube skirts, paisley print sweaters and oversize jackets all in red, black and blue. Next month those will all be history.
"Our whole philosophy is to be able to shop Miss Selfridge every month and find a different look," Morris adds. "Our customers like to look different every day of the week."
Miss Selfridge was born out of the swinging '60s as a department lodged within the otherwise subdued confines of Selfridges department store in London, for young women on the vanguard of fashion, when fashion meant plastic boots, white tights, miniskirts and hot pants.
The concept grew until it eventually became a separate company with its own board of directors. Today, there are 74 Miss Selfridge shops in Britain; one-third of them are located in department stores, the rest are free-standing boutiques.
The clothes were exported for a brief time in the early '70s to Toronto and Stockholm, but they have never been available in the United States until now. Morris says the arrangement with J.C. Penney is an "experiment" that will last through spring, but she expects the experiment to be a success and the departments to become permanent fixtures.
"So many American girls shop Miss Selfridge in London," Morris points out, "and we've never seen anything like this in the States."
The merchandise sold here will actually be a year behind that in Britain. Clothes now showing in British Miss Selfridge stores consist of very tight skirts that "emphasize the bum" with back ruching and bustles, long Nehru jackets, skinny-rib turtleneck sweaters ("jumpers") and zouave pants worn under long tunics.
It's very "rich hippie--not tacky hippie," Morris says. "I don't think you'd be ready for it."