O Claudia Schiffer, wherefore art thou Claudia, mega-mannequin of the love-tousled tresses, the high-flying cheekbones and the overbite of an amorous chipmunk? Hast thou indeed come to style-starved Washington to pout into the autumn sunshine with lips sculpted by killer bees? Breathes there anywhere upon this planet a damsel more fair?

Well, maybe and maybe not. But probably not a 20-year-old of comparable beauty inhaling gridlock on Dolley Madison Boulevard en route to media lock at the Hecht's perfume counter in Tysons Corner Center on Saturday afternoon.

And certainly not one with an eight-person entourage spread from Tysons to the Willard Hotel to the Revlon Learjet at National Airport, waiting to whisk off to New York for the night and then to Paris for Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel show today before panting back to Boston tomorrow.

And then jetting back to Paris.

Is this girl overscheduled, or what?

Not according to Schiffer, 5 feet 11 1/2 inches of coltish insouciance, who says what she loves about modeling is "I can work whenever I want and take a holiday whenever I want and ... just do whatever I want."

When is your next day off?

"I don't know yet."

When was your last day off?

"I don't remember."

Ah, to have the world in love with you.

Schiffer does remember the night 2 1/2 years ago when she was dancing with her boyfriend at a nightclub in Duesseldorf in her native Germany and a man came up to her and told her she should get into modeling and he would make her a star.

"I thought it was a joke," she says with a controlled smile, running slender fingers through her shoulder-length too-perfect blond hair. "He looked like the kind of guy who hangs out every night at clubs. Typical French ... with that dark curly hair. But he said he would call my parents at 12 the next day and at exactly 12 he called."

Six months later "I was taking holidays from school to go to Paris for a test shoot." Within months she was a jet-setting cover girl, the darling of couture runways and strobe-lit studios in Paris and New York, earning more than $100 a minute just for showing up. The camera loves her. She's the hot model of the '90s ("Fashion's New Blond Bombshell" says Women's Wear Daily). Lagerfeld calls her "the most beautiful model working today." GQ magazine called her "the most beautiful girl in the world."

At Tysons Corner more than 2,000 people stood in line as long as 20 minutes just to get her autograph. Her 11-cities-in-12-days publicity tour for Guess perfume may set some sort of record for image imprinting, fueled as it is by omnipresent photos of a smoldering Schiffer, lips parted above her black lace bustier, looking very much like the sort of girl who draws blood with her teeth and nails just saying hello.

Everyone compares her to Brigitte Bardot, the 1950s sex-kitten-turned- Jane-Fonda-of-animal-rights. Bardot, now 56, was last heard from a couple of years ago when she was sued by a neighboring farmer in France for having his donkey castrated.

"It's a great compliment to be compared to her," Schiffer says, diplomatically. "She's still a very beautiful woman. But I don't think we really look alike. We don't even have the same eye color -- hers are brown, mine are blue. And I'm much taller."

She's also, in person, much less the gamin, exuding more the sort of wholesome, stalky fragility of a Brooke Shields, erotic overbite notwithstanding.

If all this sounds like the kind of cheesecaking that sends the more humorless cohort of feminism whistling for the exploitation police, there's a uniquely Washington angle to Schiffer's story, one that should bind her to the hearts of those earnest young women dragging briefcases of ambition through the glamourless corridors of power: The most beautiful girl in the world wanted to be a lawyer.

"I had hoped to work with my father," a general practice attorney, in her hometown of Rhineberg, she says. "It was all planned out in very careful steps for years." But living on your looks won't wait for law school, and now she may have lost her taste for torts. "I would have to go back to university and it would take six years," she says. "I just can't see doing that right now. I don't know how long this {modeling} will last, but when it does I'll go on to something else."

Schiffer may not resemble the typical legal intern in her pictures, but after talking with her awhile it takes little effort to imagine her someday arguing a case in court, running a law firm or, for that matter, running for the Bundestag. What is unimaginable is Claudia Schiffer striding K Street in a power suit with a floppy tie, accessorized with that crowning touch of chic dear to Washington's young female professionals: running shoes and white athletic socks. But maybe they don't wear those in Germany.

Saturday morning she was lounging in bluejeans, a double-breasted blue blazer, blue suede boots and a kind of shiny blouse that kept turning from silver to gold and back again in the morning sunlight. She had risen at 6 a.m. to prepare for a 9 a.m. interview, and approached it with the wary vulnerability of a deer tiptoeing through the woods during hunting season.

Earnings? "I can't talk about that."

Social life? "I don't want to talk about that."

Even the section of Manhattan to which she's just moved was declared off limits, though in a smiling, friendly fashion, with only a hint of coyness.

So let's discuss being beautiful. It takes 1 1/2 hours for her makeup woman to do Schiffer's hair and face for an appearance ("usually 2 1/2 hours for a shoot -- I get up at 4 a.m.") which, when done properly, look, of course, as if they haven't been done at all.

She first began thinking of herself as beautiful, she says, "when I saw myself on all those magazines." Until then, she never saw herself as that unusual. "In school I was not the most popular girl ... not the one all the boys were after," she says. "There were some after me, but there were many girls I thought prettier." She never dreamed of modeling, she says, and spent her days in a good middle-class German routine of school, homework, tennis, ballet, piano, aerobics and, occasionally, a night on the town in Duesseldorf 45 minutes away.

She never wore braces, never went through an awkward stage and never had, she insists, even so much as a pimple. "I remember people saying, 'Oh, how cute!' and 'Isn't she pretty' from the time I was a little girl. But I didn't think that much about it." Even during her early teens, she says, "who was playing the better tennis was always much more important." Now that she's gone global, she says, many people in her home town act shy around her, blush when they see her and generally behave as if in the presence of media royalty. "But only in a nice way," she says: Nothing very un-nice has ever happened to Claudia Schiffer.

Other stunningly beautiful women may be resented at times or looked on as threatening, but that's never happened to her, she says. Maybe that's because "I'm never arrogant or anything. I'm always very natural. When I'm not working I don't even wear makeup. I put my hair in a tail and go around in jeans."

She is bemused by her growing horde of fans, whose fervor she clearly considers more than a bit bizarre. She gets hundreds of fan letters and is showered by proposals of marriage from love-smitten men she's never met. One sent her three videotapes of himself documenting his interest in dolphins.

None of them, she says, would believe the ordinariness of her rare days off: "I sleep. I call my parents. I do my laundry. I clean my apartment. I go to the bank."

She's clearly going to the bank a lot these days. Though she won't discuss how much money she makes, a Women's Wear Daily article in March pronounced her fee for a fashion fitting $3,157 for a half-hour. Fees for photography and personal appearances would be much higher. And she is booked nonstop.

Some indication of what her clients get for their money was evident Saturday. Throngs spurned the autumnal glory of a flawless October day outside to stand by the perfume counter in Hecht's raptly watching Schiffer, looking sweet and girlish in her blazer, sit at a table, shake her hair out of her eyes and autograph pictures and T-shirts for an hour and a half. Every one of more than a dozen people interviewed had come to the mall specifically to see Schiffer, and most had driven some distance.

Some appeared drawn primarily by aesthetics, like the man in his twenties who wouldn't give his name but said he came "just because she's drop-dead gorgeous." Others, like Jerry Lindell, 52, of Reston, came out of curiosity. "It's like paying 50 cents to see the Lizard Man at the circus," he explained. "She's supposed to be the most gorgeous woman in the world, so I said, 'What the hell?' "

Cynthia Ghazi, 36, a blond woman in black leather hot pants and a brocade Guess jacket, drove all the way from Olney with her daughter Renee, 9 (in matching outfit) because "I have followed all her ads from the beginning. She does Chanel and I buy Chanel. I think she's wonderful ... very exciting. So does Renee. This is a very big day for us."

John Cookman, 34, of Arlington, a scholarly-looking man in glasses and an Ivy League cap, came because "I saw her on the cover of Rolling Stone and I think she's going to be really famous. I figure you only go around once, so I better get her autograph now."

Tom Meixner, 26, of College Park, on the other hand, came "because my roommate's in love with her."

Several mothers said they came to get autographed pictures for their sons, who they said were similarly smitten with Schiffer but weren't around.

One lovesick fellow who was was Renaldo Turner, 23, a soft-spoken man with a Lincolnesque beard. He'd driven more than an hour all the way from Culpeper, Va., to see Schiffer, and now he was standing in line another 20 minutes to shake her hand.

"I was kind of hoping she might go out with me," he said with a shy smile. He knew she was leaving that afternoon for New York and would then be off to Paris, but he would wait, he said. He gazed down at her picture and smiled reverently. "I'll meet her any time, any place, anywhere," he said.