09/19/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
WHEN WE BEGAN PREPARING PEOPLE'S 15th annual Best & Worst Dressed issue back in June, executive editor Susan Toepfer and her staff didn't stop at compiling a list of this year's winners and losers. They also tracked the fashion phenomena that round out our 126-page special section beginning on page 58. "When searching for fresh stories," says Elizabeth Sporkin, editor for this issue, "we always look to the headlines."
And this was a banner year for fashion news. There was Oprah
's tag sale in Chicago (see page 173), the Billy Joel/Elton John tour that pitted Giorgio Armani against Gianni Versace (page 140) and the D Day ceremony in London to which Princess Di, Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mum all wore lavender (page 135). An offbeat event even spawned the most revealing story in the issue—PEOPLE'S celebrity briefs or boxers poll (page 180). "Since the President had no problem disclosing on MTV last spring that he wears briefs, we couldn't resist posing the question to other celebrities," says Sporkin.
Thus, reporter Averie LaRussa was dispatched on her first official PEOPLE assignment: to record the stars' underwear preferences. Although she initially thought it was a hazing ritual for new reporters, LaRussa, 25, doggedly pursued her subjects, cornering David Brenner on a New York City sidewalk and ringing Geraldo Rivera on his cellular phone. Why was she successful? "Averie seems so guileless," says Kim Hubbard, senior editor for this issue. "You might overlook the fact that she was getting awfully personal." LaRussa has her own theory. "By the time I went through my whole spiel about how embarrassed I was to ask," she says, "they were so sick of me, they answered just so I'd go away."