Even in L.A.'s freewheeling Beverly Center, heads turn when fashion model Lisa Dean comes into view. One day last week, for example, she was set for summer shopping dressed in body-hugging black, a bowed French beret and men's clunky military shoes.
Although Dean models for top European designers and appears in TV commercials and rock videos, she has an earthbound savvy to which consumers can relate. Her motto: "Buy cheap but have an expensive look."
The Times tagged along on her trip to see what warm-weather bargains this clothes-hip clotheshorse would find in local stores at a time when the fashion industry is talking fall--but most Californians are thinking summer.
Dean said she was looking for soft, fitted jerseys she can clutter with gold necklaces. She wanted clothes that evoke Chanel, the early '60s or Audrey Hepburn in the movie "Sabrina." Another thing you should know about Dean: "I'm mad about midnight blue," she said.
At the Broadway, Beverly Center, she flitted straight to the junior department, fingering fabrics and selecting a sleeveless white pique shift by Esprit ($62).
"Very '60s. Definitely the Supremes," she said with satisfaction. When she added gloves and gold necklaces, she
found another comparison: "It's Jackie O."
But Dean also leans toward the exotic (in one current TV commercial, she dances around in a kitchen, tapping chopsticks, selling teriyaki sauce), so it came as little surprise when she chose what she called "my tart outfit"--a slinky, striped miniskirt ($34) by Reserve and a body stocking ($28) by BDP, which clung, without stress, to her Size 4 form.
"The skirt has a good fit. Normally I wouldn't get anything so loud," she said.
Her last pick was a romantic white sun dress ($42, by Starina) that resembled a Victorian nightie. She added a white eyelet skirt by Carole Little ($54) for a layered look and white socks, which she pushed down, disheveled schoolgirl-style.
Lee Hogan Cass, Broadway of Southern California vice president and fashion director, later noted that the white sun dress was a best seller of the moment, along with other bare sun dresses and bleached denim sportswear. She said consumers have been buying play clothes when the weather's hot and serious career togs when it's cool.
Next, Dean hit Bullock's, where she immediately focused on a lone pair of knit bicycle shorts ($21) she said she'd been craving.
"It came over me about a month ago," she explained. "Some designer in Paris did polka-dot bicycle shorts. I thought it would be great with ankle socks and some dumb shoes."
She also chose a white bare-midriff sweater, despite its rather steep price of $89.99, on sale. Then, a taupe jump suit by Axis ($74) and a narrow, two-piece black dress by Rebecca Moses ($122 body suit, $102 skirt), to which she added a narrow belt and chains. Her tastes were becoming clear:
"I like everything really simple," she said. "Whenever I buy a print, I wear it for a week or two, then put it in the closet, where it stays."
Dean said her designer preferences range from Valentino to Gaultier and Donna Karan. But she can be eclectic. She claims to have spent an entire New York summer in Brooks Brothers boxer shorts (with the fly sewn), T-shirts and white sneakers. "It wasn't obscene. It was very gym," she recalls.
Lately, she said, she wears a black body stocking with a sweater or jacket tied at the waist, doubling as a skirt.
"It's the greatest. People ask me where I got my skirt."
Dean also believes in mixing the pricey with the cheap, "a nice inexpensive T-shirt with a cashmere sweater." She wears lots of jewelry or none at all.
At Robinson's in Beverly Hills, she spied some navy and white Adrienne Vittadini knits. Dean was hooked. She had found her Chanel look.
The skirt ($60), sweater ($94) and knit cardigan ($135) were in petite sizes, but the wiry model squeezed into the tube skirt and rolled it up into a mini. She pulled some chains over her neck and placed her beret over her dark auburn hair.
"It's simple stuff. Very classic. And a lot cheaper than Chanel," she said.
Sarah Worman, a Robinson's vice president for fashion merchandising, said this kind of flexible career outfit is a priority of the moment: "Something that you wear to work and then wear out to dinner. Knit dressing is very big now."
On a whim, Dean tried a flowing Betty Jackson dress in pale peach. She wanted it.
"It's a little expensive ($150). But it's one of those pieces you can throw on and look great. So it's worth it," she said.
She also found a $44 straw fedora, which reminded her of "Venice in the '20s."
At Nordstrom in the Westside Pavilion, the model mentioned that she had yet to find the right business suit. This time she passed by the junior and designer areas in favor of the career-dressing department called Point of View.