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From the editor

What the heck is style, anyway? How do you define it? Who has it, who doesn't? And, more to the point, if you don't have style, then how do you manage to get some?

"Style means never having to say you're sordid," is how one wry friend of mine described it, with absolutely no apologies to "Love Story."

"Style means knowing how to conduct yourself with class and in such a way that everyone remembers you. And remembers you fondly," said another, less waggish, friend.

"Style means living your life the way you want to with absolutely no regrets and to hell with everyone else," says yet another friend, who adds: "With this particular style, it also helps to have boatloads of money."

Style, quite obviously, has wildly different meanings, depending on who you are and what your sensibilities might be. But in the end, does style really have meaning? After all, when that final accounting comes around-and I would prefer that the firm of Arthur Anderson and Associates not do mine, thank you-will we be remembered for the deeds we did, or whether we looked good doing them? Not a tough question.

Style, it seems to me, means striving to have it both ways. It means leading a life that is rich and balanced, and pulling it all off with panache. And I would guess that the most stylish people on the planet-whoever you might deem them to be-don't really have to try all that hard to pull it off. Born with style? Yeah, well, maybe. Which means the rest of us can only hope for great advances in medicine that will, in the not-so-distant future, bring safe and affordable style transplants. And with luck, they will be covered by my HMO.

This is our annual "Style" issue, and when we set out to pick a half-dozen women who personify Gulfshore style we were pretty naïve about exactly what we were getting ourselves into. What would our criteria be?

"There are lots of stylish women who don't do anything except worry about being stylish," is the way one colleague put it.

So we sought women who lead active, public lives. And we spent an inordinate amount of time on the telephone. We called a lot of people and asked them: "Who are the most stylish women you know?" Then we called some more. The list was long, and trimming it down to the finalists was very difficult indeed. The six women we have chosen make being stylish look way too easy. But most of all-they lead lives of real meaning, and they look good doing it.

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