Off the Runway

updated 09/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/19/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Forget their seven-figure salaries and their movie-star boyfriends. What's most enviable about supermodels is their freedom from that timeless lament—What am I going to wear? After all, they not only have gorgeous faces and fat-free bodies, but the world's greatest shopping mall spread at their feet. "Imagine if you had every single top label in the world to choose from," says designer Todd Oldham. "And the girls have great personal style," he adds, "so they're not necessarily wearing stuff the way it was shown on the runway." In fact, few remain faithful to any one line. They might mix Armani with the Gap, Donna Karan with L.L. Bean. And they relax. "Nothing," says Elle Macpherson, "can beat an old pair of jeans and a T-shirt."

Even with their pick of designer collections, models sometimes can't resist the temptation to be tacky. As Veronica Webb says, "You have to have some kitsch in your wardrobe." Hers? Frederick's of Hollywood mules with gold, seven-inch stiletto heels. Elle Macpherson proudly wears her admittedly "horrible" white patent-leather slip-ons with Lucite heels. But Roshumba questioned the distinctive A-line coat she bought at a thrift shop. "Why am I wearing this?" she thought. "Green leather! How awful."

Some high priestesses of style have clothing rituals. Claudia Schiffer is religious about her shopping habits: "I buy my shoes in Milan, my funky clothes in SoHo, and my lingerie on St.-Germain-des-Prés in Paris." In a nightly rite, Roshumba slips on a treasured silk sarong from India. Veronica Webb even holds funerals for her favorite old clothes. "When my Azzedine jacket from 1987 finally died," she says, "I wrapped it up in a box, attached a note saying where it came from and took it to the Salvation Army. It was a loss."

Since designers often give away clothes to their runway stars, a model can dress great on a $600 annual clothing budget, as Brandi does. But others, indulging their passions, rack up hefty bills. Veronica Webb, who owns 370 pairs of shoes, estimates that she spends $40,000 a year on clothes. "I love clothes. I love fashion. I'm not embarrassed," she says. Nor is Tyra Banks ashamed. She picked up a denim purse for $8.96 at a Wal-Mart in Ohio. "I've been known to be cheap," she says. "But I'm trying to break the habit of buying 10 tops for $100." One model who doesn't put a price on style is Claudia Schiffer. "I have no idea how much I spend, but it's not that much," she says. "I keep everything forever."

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