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A 'Million' Niche and Tidy Ideas About Pigeonholes the Size of Closets

March 11, 1994|ANN CONWAY and PATRICK MOTT

W e've bumped into the book "Dress Like a Million (on Considerably Less)" by Leah Feldon ($20, Villard Books). In it, the author, who also wrote "Dressing Rich," describes the five corners of today's fashion: Bas Couture, MTV Chic, Le Sportif Motif, Classic Chic and styles worn by YEEPS (Young Environmentally Enlightened Professionals). We knew all of you fashionably hip would want to know about this. And, of course, you'd want our unbiased opinions about these LOOKS of the '90s . . .

SHE: First, definitions of the five fashion looks: Feldon calls Bas Couture "dressing down." Actually, bas (pronounced bah ) literally means "low" fashion, she writes. It is the opposite of haute couture or high fashion. "It is a studied casualness--distressed jeans, thrift store frocks, Doc Martens, over-large clothes, mismatched styles . . . textures."

MTV Chic ensembles are usually "skintight," she observes. "Spandex, Lycra, leather and lace are the main fabrics."

Le Sportif Motif is about "dressing like a jock . . . in leotards, stirrup pants, motorcycle jackets, dresses shaped like wet suits."

Classic Chic is all about "simple elegance, taste, class . . . sticking to the best of the classics and eschewing any style that smacks of trendy," Feldon says.

YEEPS dressing is the '90s version of the '70s preppy look and the '80s yuppie style. "They like natural fabrics, live in . . . cotton chinos, cords, blue denim shirts, loafers, earth tones. Round, horn-rimmed glasses add to the look."

HE: I was all set to call Feldon another trendoid gimmick-monger until I read her take on that classic chic business. After each category she lists the pros and cons of each look, and the first three entries have as many things to damn them as to recommend them.

Here's the only bad thing she has to say about classic chic: "If you're the adventuresome, experimental, avant-garde, artsy type, you could be bored by classy understatement. Classic chic is not on the cutting edge of fashion. Sorry, but that's the only drawback I can think of."

Sorry? I bless you, Ms. Feldon.

SHE: I love the way she lists examples of men and women who have epitomized the looks about which she writes. Her examples for classic chic include Jackie Onassis and the two late greats, Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire.

When it comes to bas couture , she calls Diane Keaton its "grandmother" and says Sinead O'Connor epitomizes the look.

Her examples for MTV chic? Madonna, of course. And Marisa Tomei, the Hell's Angels.

Flo-Jo and Jane Fonda represent Le Sportif Motif.

The YEEPs look? "Thank yous," she writes, "to the Gap and clones, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Katharine Hepburn."

Where do you fit in?

HE: Classic when I have money. Low-end YEEP when I don't. If I'd listened to my mother and become a lawyer, I could have all the Austin Reed suits and Bally loafers and cashmere sweaters and Turnbull & Asser shirts and Hermes ties I wanted. As it is, the Dockers people and I are on very good terms. And I'm still on the Land's End mailing list.

I'd guess you're more of an MTV/classic hybrid. Yes?

SHE: Gasp! How did you know about my leather, spandex and Lycra? (OK, so I have three leather jackets and a million bathing suits.)

Truth is, you've pegged me to a tee. I love the classics--wear them 90% of the time--but when I party I love to wear something fitted and sexy. Will I ever grow up?

HE: Not if you're lucky. It's all a matter of being yourself and, more importantly, knowing yourself. You can pull all that off, both psychologically and physically. But you'd never in a million years go for that bas couture stuff, right? You and grunge are not on speaking terms, right? (Right?)

I'm more limited. Even if I were sleek and had coal-black hair and could actually wear MTV duds, I still wouldn't. I'd feel foolish, as if I were in a costume instead of clothes. But I would feel comfortable in a hacking jacket and boots, which actually is more of a costume than simple clothing. Go figure.

SHE: Bas couture rubs me the wrong way. It's just too cute, too look-at-little-old-rag-doll-me. I wouldn't be caught dead in it.

Put me in the desert, though, and I can do a pretty good imitation of the Le Sportif Motif look. I've found my all-black wardrobe doesn't cut it in sun country, so I've bought some pastel workout togs. Now, if I only had Jane's body.

HE: Yes, I've often thought that too, provided that Jane's body was sitting on my couch at the time. But (hee hee) I digress.

I'm with you on the sporty clothes. You don't necessarily have to have a body that you could strike matches off of in order to look good in a nice coordinated jogging suit. The problem is, some of them cost as much as a nice, coordinated business suit.

But let's join Ms. Feldon in calling for the death of bicycle shorts as a fashion statement. Bike shorts were made for one reason: to keep your thighs from chafing when you ride. They were not made for lounging around the carrot juice bar.

Got the legs for bike shorts? Good. Use them to spin the pedals.

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