THE metaphorists of high fashion made the whole thing sound startling, fragile and very expensive: "Suddenly, with clothes going soft and guileful," cried Vogue, "the beauty aspect is changing from cosy-natural to smooth-as-sapphire." Harper's Bazaar personified it in a Golden Girl: "Blithe spirit, her skin the beige of beaches," dressed in "14-carat comfort, 14-carat chic." What was exciting them was the new effort to add elegance to the casual look of the American woman. Sportswear for milady has never been more abundant, more nearly priced for every pocketbook, more durable, or made...

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