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Half of the world's great fashion designers will shortly be arriving among us and I'm sure "Good Morning America" and Letterman and the "Today Show" and CBS already have their booking agents hard at work nailing down the best of them.

But then, September has always been an exciting time in fashion: The summer blahs ended, people suntanned and rested, the kids back at school, new clothes in the shop windows, the fashion magazines fat with ads and photos of the new fall-winter clothes from the collections in Paris and Rome.

And this year, September promises to be even more frenzied.

Yves Saint Laurent is headed for New York on one of his rare trips, here to launch his latest perfume, Champagne, with a gala Sept. 12 at the Statue of Liberty (originally a gift from the French, lest we forget) and lots of other excitements.

A few days earlier, the Fashion Group is throwing a tribute to fashion reporter Bernadine Morris of The New York Times, and some of the big Paris names will be here for the black-tie event, along with their latest couture collections fresh from the July showings in Paris: Givenchy, Ungaro, Venet, Ferre for Dior, Lacroix, Versace, Lagerfeld, Oscar de la Renta for Balmain and so on.

Will all this help sell dresses? So it is devoutly to be wished.

Fashion is so many things, commerce among them. Once when I was publisher of Women's Wear Daily, I asked Saint Laurent for his definition and he said for him fashion was a "metier poetique ... a poetic craft." "Art," Yves insisted, was "too important" a word. But in all the time I've been interviewing designers about fashion, almost every one of them has at some point begun talking not about fashion, but about "style."

For them, fashion is what you wear; style is what you are.

In a recent issue of The Economist from London, there's a review of a new book about style by longtime English designer Sir Hardy Amies, now in his 80s, a man who for years dressed the queen, and, coincidentally, was a wartime spy (for our side, of course!).

Style, says Sir Hardy, is more than the clothes. In a couple of delightful phrases he urges people to spend the money to buy good shoes (you do get two of them, he reminds us) and to remember that "even dowdiness is preferable" to the look of "new money."

With old Amies in mind, I've jotted down a few examples of "style" of my own, people and things who for whatever reason just looked right. And had "style."

Edward R. Murrow, at the end of the bar at Louis & Armand's on East 52nd Street, knocking them back after his show across the street at CBS ... Betty Bacall's rasping laugh ... George Plimpton riding his bike around Manhattan ... the Duchess of Windsor's southern belle eyes, flirtatious when she was 70 ... Pavarotti's huge shawl, like an elegant tablecloth ... Ben Bradlee's sleek hair ... Babe Paley just about any time ... those old "Man of Distinction" liquor ads ... Tom Wolfe's white suit ... Coco Chanel in one of her braided tweed suits, drinking a beer at Suzanne Luling's apartment in Paris ... Lena Horne ... Scott Fitzgerald sober ... a Hermes scarf ... Katharine Hepburn on East 49th Street shoveling snow from the front of her townhouse ... Adam Clayton Powell Jr. ... the early Marlboro Man ads (I know, I know ... but they had a great look) ... Hemingway ... Carole Lombard and William Powell ... suntanned legs on women ... Alex Liberman.

And then there's:

Jean Gabin's cigarette dangling, smoke rising ... Gucci loafers ... Bob Hope hitting a golf ball off an aircraft carrier ... Audrey Hepburn's neck ... the Hotel Connaught in London ... Tina Turner's legs ... Cary Grant walking across a room ... a liftoff at the Cape ... Fittipaldi behind the wheel ... Astaire singing ... L.L. Bean ... Pappy Boyington's Corsair ... snow at Christmas.

And Jackie Kennedy pretty much any old time ...

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