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FASHION / SENSE OF STYLE : Guilty as Charged in Shopping Spree

February 01, 1996|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

For a long time, feminism cast a politically correct pall over shopping, as if a woman who relished the hunt for wonderful clothes couldn't also find room in her heart to care about world hunger. Shopping was deemed a frivolous, guilty pleasure, akin to having a taste for pink Hostess SnoBalls or admiring the work of Joe Eszterhas, and some women responded by not admitting to an acquisitive streak.

My friend Wendy, for example, a financial analyst and kamikaze shopper, would never announce that she looked forward all week to spending Saturday afternoon in search of the perfect navy pea coat. Her style would be to tell her boyfriend that she spontaneously decided to kill the hours between yoga class and a lunch date with her elderly aunt by cruising the Beverly Center.

"Look what I found, honey," she would say, beaming. She'd pull her treasures from her shopping bag, welcoming them into their new home as if they were stray dogs that had followed her down 3rd Street, nipping at her heels until she adopted them.

For Wendy, as for many of us made to feel that conspicuous consumers are sinners, shopping guilt exists in direct proportion to premeditation. But it would have been hard for Wendy to explain that she just happened to be at the Santa Monica Airport on a Saturday afternoon and stumbled upon Barneys' Warehouse Sale. That annual event is for those willing to cop to shopping malice aforethought.

The opening day was a benefit for Stop Cancer. A $10 entrance fee, plus 10% of the sales, were donated to the local organization, which funds research at the UCLA and USC comprehensive cancer centers. A cynic might point out the bad timing in putting on a charity function just after a Chapter 11 filing, but the event was planned long before that news hit the business pages.

A number of models showed up early, including Carol Alt, Rachel Hunter, Joan Severance and Sports Illustrated swimsuit regular Stacey Williams. Janet Jones Gretsky found an Armani jacket reduced from $1,400 to $500. Sherry Lansing, chair of Stop Cancer, cruised the racks, as did "NYPD's" Sharon Lawrence, David Keith and soap stars Fiona Lewis and Ian Buchanan.

The sale ends Feb. 11.

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Casual Awards: The American Music Awards seem to be the dress-down Friday of awards shows. Hootie and the Blowfish, appearing in their usual Sears comfort clothes, explained, "We're wearing whatever was on the floor." Mariah Carey, in a long, slinky Calvin Klein matte jersey gown, didn't follow their lead, but many of the presenters and winners Monday night did. LL Cool J, understanding that form follows function, aped bike messenger style by pushing one pant leg up to his knee.

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Beauty Tip: As anyone who had ever chosen Pez over tastier candies knows, clever packaging can be irresistible. Green Tea, the tart, unisex cologne from Bulgari, is now available in a line of bath products. Oversized tea bags that hang from the faucet on a slender silk cord turn the bath water an inviting green, smell wonderfully fresh and don't leave a ring around the teacup. Er, bathtub. Available at Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bulgari stores.

* Sense of Style appears in Life & Style on Thursdays.

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