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En Garde, Press Princesses


The new perfect-bound W hits the stands today and it's, well, practically perfect. As big and glossy as an '80s super model--which is what you'd have to be to afford most of the clothes inside. Born-again W boasts the triumphant return of cheeky columnist Louise J. Esterhazy, who, Women's Wear Daily readers may recall, lampooned the fashion/society set with glee. After a "long sabbatical in Palm Beach," poor Louise (the nom de plume of WWD Chairman John Fairchild) returns to the social scene to discover she's been outclassed by Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Liz Tilberis, editor of Harper's Bazaar. "It seems," huffs Esterhazy, "that the Press Princesses have reached the top of the heap in New York, no small thanks to their trusty Men-in-Waiting, those royal flacks who get paid to ingratiate their ladies with the gratin, while feeding their exploits to the hungry gossip columnists. . . . I think I need a flack."

Our Favorite Things: Donna Karan has a line of wardrobe staples called Essentials, whose elements--black pants, classic blazer, etc.--she vows never to radically alter. Well, Donna, that's a fabulous idea for rich girls. But we clock-punchers must scour the town ourselves for the perfect pants, skirt, hat, belt, bag, lipstick color, etc. at the right price. Today we unveil the Inside Out collection of Summer-in-the-City essentials:

* The best black linen dress: Kiko's sturdy but soft, oversized mid-calf jumper, with scooped neck, patch pockets (for sunglasses and keys) and faux tortoise shell buttons ($90 at M. Fredric). Wear it open over leggings as a body vest or over a T-shirt. The cut of the garment hides bulges. The color hides wrinkles. No wonder we reach for it every day.

* The best white undershirt: Hanes' four-pack of stevedore-style tank shirts (less than $5 at Target). With cotton ribbed fabric this cheap, er, lightweight, you won't even know you're wearing an undershirt! Except when it camouflages an errant black bra strap or absorbs a few drops of feminine stomach sweat. We solved the itchy stitching problem by cutting off the tag and wearing our shirts inside out.

* Best summer bra: Wacoal's Style 85164 ($38, marked down to $24 at a Nordstrom sale) is the most flattering cotton bra around. The underwire is double wrapped--protecting us from unintentional body piercing--and it has 100% cotton cups and a 90% cotton back. But what really separates it from the nice-girl models is the satin-cord, criss-cross lacing in front, a la Moll Flanders . . . or was it Kim Novak?

* Best summer shoe: Sam & Libby's perforated black leather sandals with crepe soles ($48, department stores) are substantial without being clunky. Which means you can wear them with a summer dress or jeans. This shoe is so popular, moms who doff them at park sandboxes have been known to reclaim the wrong pair.

Das Tug Boat: Are we the only ones who've been driven to distraction by the incessant shirt-tugging on board the Starship Enterprise? Each time Capt. Picard and his fellow officers stand up, the actors grasp their torso-hugging shirts by the hem and give a sharp tug. It's a self-conscious, fussy little move that seems out of character for macho Starfleet types. Maybe the mystery will be solved when our very own 100% polyester, officially authorized versions of the show's "Gold Executive Officer" and "Blue Science Officer" shirts ($26) arrive in the mail from a catalogue called "Things You Never Knew Existed" ((813) 747-5566). Be sure to check out the fetching, slinky red dress on Page 5. It's a copy of one worn in the original series by Lt. Uhura, who, to her credit, never tugged.

Fuzz Busters: You know goatees aren't quite the groovy trademark they used to be when you spot them on such mainstream chins as: 1) your kids' camp counselors; 2) Wesley Snipes ("Rising Sun"); 3) six players at the All-Star Game; 4) club-hopping "Musketeer" Charlie Sheen; 5) the hippest guy at a Tarzana barbecue; 6) Jason Priestley in Vanity Fair; 7) your brother-in-law; 8) NAACP Executive Director Benjamin F. Chavis; 9) your sister-in-law.

A Todd of All Trades: Drag queens and cross dressers are getting all the attention lately--Ru Paul and the rest. So, it was not entirely a surprise to hear that designer Todd Oldham is bringing one of his trans-dresser fashion shows to town. Billy Beyond, Oldham's favorite model, is a regular on his New York runway and most likely to make the trek to Neiman Marcus for the Reeely Big Shew in December. By then, Oldham's first fragrance will be ready to launch (early April). And his first New York art show will be over. That opens Oct. 7 at the Helander Gallery. If you miss it all, you can still catch him on MTV's "House of Style," where he is the first designer to have his own regular TV spot talking fashion. And you wondered why his mother loves him.

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