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Sitting Pretty : Fashion on TV: What's Hot


TV fashion shows--"Style," "House of Style" and "Fashion Television"--reflect the attitudes of their parent networks. At CNN, the perfectly proper Elsa Klensch anchors, while a few channels to the left, MTV's Cindy Crawford gamely leads viewers through a video labyrinth of cool clothes and hot bods.

Here's what to expect when cruising the channels for fashion:

Show: "Style," a 30-minute fashion news show on CNN. (At CNN, news rules, and "Style" host Elsa Klensch stresses news, though recent topics have included such heavy-hitters as " '93: The Year of the Boot.") Airs Saturday mornings at 7.

Host: Elsa Klensch is 50-ish and impeccably dressed in that cross between Miss Manners and the Dress for Success floppy-bow blouse mode. She likes big gold jewelry, has the fashion maven haircut--a bob--and talks with an Australian accent that sounds part clipped Brit and part Texas twang. Her posture is perfect; her mask is the frozen, beatific smile of a mother at a piano recital. She never asks ugly questions, makes her guests cry or attacks their designs. This may account for her longevity.

Debut: June, 1980.

Content: Five segments; three on designer collections (heavy on runway footage), one on interior or architectural design (homes and stores so exclusive or expensive that neither thee nor me will likely ever enter) and one on fashion accessories or cosmetics.

Volume: 48 shows a year; Elsa takes four weeks of vacation.

Regular Advertisers: Seiko, Gitano, Paul Mitchell and Redken.

Irritating: Klensch's voice and the preponderance of tight video shots. The camera dwells on a pretty face, a shoe heel or a vest button without showing the complete outfit. And the host lets the designers do the talking as their clothes are shown, which is generally boring but occasionally comical: Sonia Rykiel proclaims, "My skirts this season, they are very, very long but short"; Karl Lagerfeld gropes for a more glamorous word than pink, "It's a very special red."

Admirable: The perpetual smile, and the three runway segments she socks into each show. *


Show: "House of Style," an hourlong collage of superstars, mega-models and hot fashions, airs irregularly on MTV.

Host: Cindy Crawford is a stunning model, an all-around good sport and a quick-change artist. She's not shy about looking slightly uncoordinated in the show's flaky workout class segments, dressing in zip-front housecoats from Sears or squeezing into an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny bikini, though she's in the sunset of her pin-up days.

Debut: Summer, 1989.

Content: Short on fashion direction, long on cool. Crawford, describing the fashion direction and significant details of a featured swimsuit, mustered a weak "sexy as hell."

Volume: "They produce as many (shows) as they can," says an MTV spokesperson. Lately, that has been a yearly count of nine.

Regular Advertisers: Ogilvie, Johnson & Johnson and Revlon.

Irritating: Nothing stays on the screen long enough to be irritating, and that can be an irritant. One of the best segments, "Todd Time," in which designer Todd Oldham demonstrates such useful tasks as how to re-cover secondhand furniture using only a hot-glue gun, is too short. And the superimposed credits must be confusing to non-players--Norma Kamali, is she: a) part of an all-girl group, b) a swimwear designer or c) the model in that maillot? (Answer: b.)

Admirable: Although Crawford and company are treated as mere eye candy, it's in a lighthearted, humorous style that never sinks to the misogyny often found in music videos.


Show: "Fashion Television," a weekly 30-minute show on VH1. Airs Saturday at 1 p.m. and repeats Sunday at 7 p.m.

Host: Jeanne Beker is primarily a background vocal, rarely an on-screen personality.

Debut: February, 1990.

Content: Video magazine format is geared for the aging but distracted baby boomer. A hunk of runway footage here, an oddball character there and a sprinkling of trends throughout.

Volume: 52 shows a year.

Advertisers: Caress, Gillette, Helene Curtis, Reebok, Nike, Clothestime, JC Penney.

Irritating: Its lack of depth and focus.

Admirable: For those totally out of the trend loop, those who merely seek fodder for cocktail chatter, it offers the headlines without the pesky details, like how to make something or where to buy it.

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