Civil war fails to ruffle Lebanon's fashionable women

Bursts of machine-gun fire sent motorists racing away in panic, but Nadia gazed unruffled into the mirror of one of Beirut's most fashionable boutiques. Not everyone has Nadia's steely nerves. Her friends had fled the shop, and the owner was twirling the dial of a radio for more news. But they remain dedicated followers of fashion -- an obsession that seems to cut across the physical, political, and religious barriers created by 11 years of bitter civil war.

Shopping for fashionable clothes is a form of escape from the war, says one Lebanese woman. A recent poll by the Arabic weekly Al-Hawadeth showed that 65 percent of women here listed looks and fashion as their top priority. Shops full of finely cut business suits and high-priced casual wear suggest Lebanese men are almost as fashion-conscious as Lebanese women.

Although the war has taken a toll on Beirut's once-frenetic nightlife, a trend toward private social events has boosted demands for fashionable gowns.

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