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Fashion-watcher Edie Locke

Defining what fashion is and isn't, what constitutes ``style'' and what spells ``disaster'' on a woman, is one of Edie Raymond Locke's many fortes. As editor in chief of Mademoiselle magazine from 1971 to 1980, Ms. Locke helped shape the way a whole generation looked and imagined themselves.

Edie Locke shared some of her thoughts on fashion and fashion designers: Q: What makes today's fashion so different from fashion, say, a decade or two ago? There are those who would argue that ``the more it changes, the more it says the same.'' A: Fashion is unique and completely different today, as it was unique and different a decade ago. Today, the word that best defines fashion is options. You have, for instance, a Geoffrey Beene short, slim little skirt with a body-fitting jacket, and then you have a majestic, sweeping long skirt with a trench coat from Ralph Lauren, or Calvin Klein. You have the wonderfully suited Donna Karan jackets, and you have the whimsical twist of a Karl Lagerfeld. The cookie-cutter fashion of earlier decades is also over with. Today, you don't have to look or dress like everybody else to be in fashion. It's not a matter of sporting that nice little knit suit to look respectable. It's a matter of making an artistic statement every time you step out in the street. . . . The dress, too, is quite a different story today. When I thought of dresses, I thought ``dumb, dresses are dumb.'' But now, with sweaters and lovely cashmeres that have suddenly turned into dresses, the look is fresh, elegant, not confining. . . . Q: But is ``looking fashionable'' for everyone? What about when you leave the streets of New York and travel 500 miles inland -- anywhere? A: It used to be a truism that you'd see a suit or a dress on the runway or on the pages of a fashion magazine, and then had to wait five years to see it in the street anywhere -- with the exception of New York and other metropolitan areas. But communication is so much faster now, and the whole country, in urban and suburban areas, is aware of and responsive to fashion today. . . . In general, women are more informed today, and because we're entering the work force more and more and also have greater possibilities of doing well in business, looking one's best is becoming exceedingly important. Women feel better about themselves today. And clothes reflect the way you feel. Q: What comes to mind when I mention these two designers: Ralph Lauren. A: Perfection. Whatever he touches, whether it's a toothbrush or the last button on his jacket, or sportsclothes or designs for the home . . . it's all designed to perfection, with great attention to detail, to style, and to what's elegant and what isn't. . . . Q: Donna Karan. A: If I were her mother, I'd be very proud of her. She's evolved so much since I first knew her, when she was woking for Anne Klein as a fashion associate. She was, of course, nurtured by Annie, but out of that cocoon emerged a fabulous designer who had to strike out on her own and who specializes in magic. I mean, your body may not look like model Paulina, but when you put Donna Karan's clothes on, you feel as if you do. She knows how to create elegance for the woman of today. Her designs are sexy-elegant, not sexy-tarty. I own a lot of her clothes because, really, they suit any woman on the go that wants to look together.

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