The Hill is a funny place. Very important people work there. And meaningful things happen, such as bills becoming laws. But for some reason, most of the women darting between Dirksen and Rayburn have left their fashion sense behind. It is possible, ladies, to look smart and professional and (spoiler to follow) stylish.

"My take on women on the Hill is utterly, delightfully warped," says Betsy Fisher of the Connecticut Avenue boutique bearing her name. "We're the people who dress lobbyists -- Hill visitors rather than denizens. Like male birds, our lobbyists flash fabulous plumage to distinguish themselves, then deliver their whammy to listeners who must have some part of their minds occupied by the issue of whether pink suede pants are really appropriate for the occasion."

But now it's the Hill regulars' turn.

Start small. Perhaps a suit that's flattering but pops with pleats or patterns. Instead of a ho-hum coat -- try a cape. Trade characterless shoes for ones with texture and small embellishments. And ditch the boring briefcase for a splendid satchel that can still hold your life.

"The last thing you want to think about is looking chic and professional when you've got a lot of work" to do, says Suzie Yalof Schwartz, Glamour magazine's executive fashion editor at large. She recommends the shift dress -- "It looks both effortless and fabulous."

And good news for preps: "Pearls are really hot this season," says Schwartz. The pearl is huge, literally -- the bigger the better.

-- Janelle Erlichman Diamond

Diane von Furstenberg jacket ($425) and skirt ($265); below, Womyn blazer ($310); all at Betsy Fisher, 1224 Connecticut Ave. NW.Single strand of pearls ($48), filigree pearl earrings ($45) and Beth Bowley cape ($335) at Clover, 502 Main St., Gaithersburg.Salvatore Ferragamo "Belga" pumps ($385) and Gioiosa plum satchel ($860) at Tysons Galleria, 2001 International Dr., McLean.