Once upon a time in a past millennium, mainstream lived on one side of the tracks, and cutting edge on the other. Them and us. Cozy co-existence. After several seasons of the strong "express as you dress" message, designers are mixing and matching so much that many collections, like Web graphics, are becoming dizzying eyesores. Now that Dolce and Fendi are playing the same dress-up game that "we the edgy dressers" always won at three seasons ago, we have to rethink our next moves. Edge maintenance used to be easy. The multi-task mixing of designer textures and patterns with flea market discoveries used to be the way to one-up the mass couture in terms of edge. The "new mainstream" has taken all the fun out of dressing offbeat and cool, but there are two roads left for edge seekers to take. By sliding the perfectly blended mismatch scale far beyond its existing edge - way past the current blender control settings in the Gucci design room - or by diving head first into the starkest non-fashion mass market simplicity (GAP, beige on beige, flight suits). Extra eyeliner is gaining speed as the accessory of choice to make this look palatable. Should you choose the simpler path, the road less traveled in fashion circles, veer towards comfort and less stress that go with the workable lifestyle that you actually have - and not the one that ad campaigns want you to emulate. Punk was a very healthy reaction to anti-establishment and there is a similarly necessary anti-fashion movement brewing at street level today. Now is the perfect time to follow those urges to slash that new T shirt.

Other fashion life changes include the slimming down of uber baggy cargo pants for both genders. More body conscious and less homie. Word. Oh happy day for the renowned stylist at Bryant Park over heard muttering "I can't wait to start seeing guys butts again", at a recent sportswear show. Springtime upper body coverage is also noticeably more form fitting for both sexes. Girlwear is all about flirty "clothing" with a slinky lingerie feel - that is battened down by blending with garb that isn't lingerie-ish at all. Go high end - or achieve your very own low budget version with true lingerie tops with long flouncy sleeves available in most nightie departments from Marshall's to Sears. Wear these with obvious "real clothes" like cotton skirts, jeans, and long canvasy skirts - paired with sneakers and other "real shoes". Access your style savvy core to accomplish a fake out at a fraction of the cost. For all the flack poor Jennifer Lopez got at the Grammys - she was really on the right track - she just forgot her trousers.

Layering is key to survive the waffling winter spring transition, as well as the current style inertia. Layer and mix the most impossible combinations you can imagine. Par example: Vintage bathing suit tops with cardigan sweaters or Dacron poly nightgown tops with Dickies workwear. Slinky half slips or disco pajama pants with a football jersey or a non-lounge genre top. Take cues from layering kings like John Galliano. Layer slip upon dress upon slip. Layer layer layer to your heart's content but never never never buy pre-sewn pre-layered pieces. Having it done for you takes all the fun out of playing the mismatch game yourself. Horror RTW items to avoid include French imports that have already attached your skirt to your pants for you. Other layering tips include skipping motifs that have played in the band for too long: Chinese New Year is over and it's time to get off the dragon wagon. Fashion Fake-Out Alert: Most "Asian Style" lettering on sportwear has no real meaning. Now mix and blend and off you go!

A sentimental journey through easier times may be coming to a theater near you. Not to be missed and sadly not yet available on video: Capping off the Frederick Wiseman's retrospective at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theatre, Model (1980) is the perfect fly on the wall foray into the fashion industry and the mad behavior attached to production. See a young adorable Jerry Hall giggle backstage and flashbacks to faces like runway legend Dalma at Oscar de La Renta - back when shows were about the clothes and took place largely in a designer's atelier. The hysterical - yet true to life making of an Evan Picone hosiery commercial made us buckle over howling and Andy Warhol's cameo chat with a pair of male supermodels was a priceless fashion moment. See how none of the insane frenzy has changed - although the au courant faces have. Many spots include a then supermodel named Apples, who none of us have heard of since.

Model citizens on the big screen.