A woman-about-fashion via Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle, House and Garden and the New York Times, Phyllis Lee Levin takes stock of the trade in a bright (bright-shiny, bright-smart) book. She sets off with a profile of ""the heroine of this book, the 'instant dress'"" and its life story, begun in Seventh Avenue surroundings ""more honky-tonk than haute couture."" She is interested in the people behind the dress, for fashion in America is ""the profound story of an immigrant people conceiving one of the most powerful manufacturing industries in the entire nation""; in David Dubinsky with his ILGWU and the harsh history behind the labor movement. Then on to publishers (Conde Nast with his Vogue, Crowninshield with his Vanity Fair) and editors (Edna Woolman Chase, Carmel Snow, and today Diana Vreeland) and photographers (from Baron de Meyer and Edward Steichen to Irving Penn and Avedon) who reveal and channel the course fashion will take. Somewhere along the line, long before Mainbocher steps in, Mrs. Levin seems to have dropped her ""heroine"" for more exclusive trappings, but never mind--the trend-setting aristocrats of the fashion world are seductive indeed. With a bow to a number of top American designers, Mrs. Levin makes her manners and leaves on a philosophic note: ""Fashion really adds up to a costume, the adornment women wear through the pageant known as life."" Fashion is also fun, and so is this book about it.