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For every season, there is a fashion muse.

Published July 16, 2001 7:34PM (EDT)

Muses are everywhere! Here is a field guide to the most common species, their behavior, origins and habitats.

The bootstraps muse The fashion insider or stealth muse. Works behind the scenes in the fashion industry as a stylist, assistant or editor before becoming full-time muse. Like the classical muse before her, she does a lot of work and doesn't get much credit.

The muse on the street Plucked from obscurity by a fashion editor, à la Chloë Sevigny. The muse on the street can sometimes make a successful, if somewhat hard-to-describe, career out of just being herself and wearing funny clothes. Phenomenon is only known to have happened to Chloë Sevigny.

The musitor A fashion editor who becomes a muse and then is written about in her own magazine. Melanie Ward, an editor at Harper's Bazaar, is also Helmut Lang's muse -- which gets her written up in Bazaar articles that feature both muses and Helmut Lang. That would be compensation enough, were it not for the fact that most editors-turned-muses have become accustomed to paychecks in past jobs.

The aristomuse Rosario Nadal, Princess of Preslav, landed a very impressive-sounding but vague job at Valentino based largely on her acquaintances, her various titles and her navy-blue blood. Designers have always favored aristocratic, elegant muses who can shell out $10,000 for a coat since, after all, they are mainly designing for aristocratic, elegant clients who can shell out $10,000 for a coat.

The Musel Like many aristocratic muses, model muses -- though taller, thinner and less fluent in the secret language of silverware -- don't have to do much to be called muses beyond wearing what a designer tells them to. For this, they receive the flattering designation of "muse" and lots of money. Sometimes, designers pay model-muses even more money to wear their clothes off the runway, just for good measure.

The famuse daughter Being a muse is ideally suited to the rock-heiress lifestyle as it is creative, flexible and does not require one to actually produce anything. Musing is perfect in this case, since the right mom or dad will get you into the right parties where designers hang out. They, in turn, will love your personal style and your public displays and your household name. Call it synergy.

The New York muse-a-lite Could also be called the McMuse. Perhaps the most label-happy and least inherently stylish muse of all. See the front sections of American Vogue and Harper's Bazaar every month for an endless muse-a-lite parade.

The muse-igner Many muses aspire to become clothes, jewelry shoe and handbag designers themselves. Jade Jagger, daughter of Mick, designs jewelry and also has been called a muse to designer Matthew Williamson. Williamson has denied this, claiming they are just good friends. Meanwhile, Jagger has denied that her style researcher and "just good friend" Ramona Rainy is her muse, as Rainey has claimed.

The musefriend Female designer's girlfriend. Phoebe Philo used to be Stella McCartney's design assistant and muse/buddy; now she's the designer for Chloi. Anne McNally is Marie-Anne Oudejans' confidante and spokeswoman at Tocca. Ramona Rainey describes her job as "wearing great jewelry and sticking close to Jade." Eventually, this muse will start designing, and the designer will be surprised.

The Hollymuse The sudden ubiquity of the fashion muse can probably be attributed to the large number of actresses who have been called muses recently. Gwyneth Paltrow has been called a muse to Klein and Armani, while Michael Kors has declared Chloë Sevigny his muse for Celine. More synergy here, perhaps of a parasitical nature.

By Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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