IT DOESN'T COMPARE with the sensation of slipping into a satin gown or the pure escapism of leafing through a magazine layout by a top photographer, but fashion mavens are increasingly finding sites to browse on the World Wide Web.
After spending a few hours style surfing, my feelings are mixed on matters of online fashion. If you're in search of new ideas, opinions and sources, or if your business is fashion, you should make a habit of signing on. On the other hand, if you're comfortable with the fashion sources you already subscribe to and don't generally need advice on matters of style, you're not really missing anything.
At best, the sites offer insider glimpses to the world of fashion and its major players, as well as more varied perspectives on style than you get in mainstream American magazines. At worst, locations are blatantly commercial (even though usually not set up for instant purchasing) and not packaged as attractively as the magazines or TV shows that inspired them or the daily newspaper you hold in your hands. It's most fun to peruse the sites when they're irreverent and offer interactive such features as bulletin boards, the chance to talk back and fast links to other sources. Computer users can spout off on what drives them crazy (lately, it's shrunken T-shirts) or what they love (Chanel's silver nail polish). …