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A Healthy Attitude : Mirabella Magazine Takes Smart Approach to Prevention and Wellness


Pairing a panel discussion on women's health issues with a fall fashion preview might seem to undermine the complex gravity of the health issues. After all, what does breast cancer prevention have to do with hemlines?

But at an event sponsored by Mirabella magazine Saturday at Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, participants and guests knew only too well the connection. Since its first issue five years ago, Mirabella has been a smart lifestyle source for thinking women. Its pages have featured both intelligent approaches to fashion and a commitment to raising women's awareness about preventive health.

Its founder, Grace Mirabella, stated this point best: "We know that clothes don't rule our lives, but looking good is important."

Good health is achieved by "prevention, prevention, prevention," she told the 400 attendees.

"A lot of women let things go until it's too late," said another panelist, Susan Stangl, associate director of postdoctore education at UCLA Family Medicine.

Louis Vandermolen, an oncologist at Hoag Cancer Center in Newport Beach, reminded the audience of mostly women that the most common cancers they face are preventable.

The measures suggested by the third panelist, Michele Hamilton, were basic: stop smoking and reduce fat and cholesterol intake.

Women tend to think that heart disease and certain cancers won't happen to them, added Hamilton, who is assistant clinical professor of medicine/cardiology and co-director of the clinical heart failure program at the University Cardiovascular Medical Group in Los Angeles.

"But more women than men die of heart disease," she said. "And they do less well than men after a heart attack or surgery."

She advised that women not delay seeking medical attention for chest pain or any other ailments.

Saturday's seminar grew out of a May 1993 health symposium Mirabella held in Washington, D.C., with Hillary Rodham Clinton as keynote speaker.

"When Mirabella started, I wanted the soul of the magazine to be health," explained its founder, who also served as Vogue's editor-in-chief for 16 years, until the late '80s. She thanked her husband, William Cahan, a surgeon, for influencing her interest in health.

"People ask Bill, 'What did you do for Grace's career?' " she said. "He tells them that there are more medical pages in the magazine (because of him). I didn't want to take some superficial approach to dealing with health."

The magazine's approach has been to display provocative photographs of a woman undergoing a face lift and the weeks of healing, and the emaciated nude torso of an anorexia victim. "What I try to do is show what women will do to be beautiful," Mirabella said. "No one ever tells you the hard part or the way you'll feel."


Following the panel discussion, a short video highlighted some of the wilder looks from the Paris and Milan runways: braided horns, nose rings, fake fur minis, vinyl dresses and skirts so short that they could pass for belts. They elicited laughs from the audience.

Then came a live parade of what was billed "real clothes for real women," modeled by women of various ages, ethnicities and sizes.

The selections shown for fall were from St. John, Donna Karan, Gianni Versace, Emanuel Ungaro, Anne Klein, Richard Tyler, Dana Buchman, Nicole Miller and others.

Clothes reflected the renaissance of femininity and glamour--even among examples of menswear shown with glossy patent leather shoes and shapely silhouettes. Hemlines usually hung above the knee, except for evening, when they fell to the calf or skimmed the ankle.

Tailoring and texture tied the trends. Deconstruction is totally out, clean shapes and finished style in. Fabrics were colored from brown and stone all the way to neon brights against black. They came in tweed, mohair, nylon, wool, velvet and even some polyester blends that are thoroughly modern.

Shoes, however beautiful, sometimes hinged on the precarious. The strappy stilettos for evening and even some of the skinny heels on over-the-ankle boots are a departure from the solid footing of chunky heels. Still other boots offer a more practical feel, including thicker-heeled short boots and flat, knee-high military boots.

Details such as a faux fur muff, a felt beret or a leopard shoulder bag with a suit evoked a confidence much more entrenched in reality than anything shown these past seasons.

But it's a small, copper booklet handed out to the audience that could prove the best accessory for the season. In it, an overall view on trends is summarized concisely and practically.

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