"Washington is not ready for this!" said Linda Shephard.
She looked up from her noontime sandwich in the International Square atrium and spotted long and lean model Michele Paradise, dressed entirely in black. "If I wore that to work they would ask me what I was doing last night," said Shephard, who is on the administration staff at Strayer Junior College.
Such is the reaction Paradise has been facing these days. A Washington model who attended American University, Paradise is back in town for a brief visit from London, where she now lives and models for Zandra Rhodes. In Paris, she recently modeled in the fall collection of Sonia Rykiel and others.
"In Paris and London no one notices what I wear particularly," said Paradise, in a black-brimmed hat, a striped, oversized blazer with pinched shoulders, a black T-shirt with Rykiel on the front, a black-leather short skirt, black-lace panty hose and black pumps.
Natural in Paris, perhaps, but on K Street it was a head-turner.
"It is not very professional," said Randi Mandler, a project manager with Litton Mellonics, who was also dressed in black, but of a different sort. "The stockings are outrageous."
At a few tables, the lunch crowd let their pizzas cool as Paradise passed by.
"I like it but I couldn't look like that going out of the house," said Terry Gastfield, a mail processing representative with Pepco. "Maybe to the laundry."
"The tights are cute; I'd wear those. I'd wear the leather skirt. I'd certainly wear the T-shirt. Even the jacket," said Bertha Nails as she studied Pariadise's get-up. "I just wouldn't wear them all together."
Scott Manclark, manager of The Fishery, looked up from behind his counter. "Eating here?" he asked, seemingly oblivious to Paradise's unusual look. He explained: "Women here look so much better than they do in Rockville where we have another store, I hardly noticed her."
"I like it. I like it. It reminds me of the 1960s," said lawyer Richard Tomar as he finished his lunch at Maxime's.
"You are certainly noticeable," said public relations executive Joan Braden, who was in the garage getting her car at just the moment Paradise had gone for hers. "My life is a little too active to wear clothes like that," she added.
Two 14-year-olds stopped to gawk at the model. "Oh my gawd," said one, tugging at the sweatshirt of the other. Paradise stared back at their jean outfits and repeated, "Oh my gawd." The teens ran off in shock.