FASHION INTELLIGENCE is not an oxymoron. The other day I went to a packed preview of a new show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity, and I was struck by the density of clever-looking women my age or older, with a comparable interest in clothes. But this exhibit isn’t just about fabulous garments; it also makes a stab at social context. It is divided into archetypes from the 1890s to the present (fun to decide which persona you identify with; for me it was definitely the uncorseted art nouveau-ish Bohemian of the early 1900s), each housed in an atmospheric space (a chandelier for the Edith Wharton-like Heiress room of the late 1800s; scenes from 1930s movies for the Screen Siren section). The most interesting historically, if not the most avant-garde in design terms, was the Patriot/Suffragist room, featuring archival film footage from the World War I era (of women campaigning for the vote, driving ambulances, repairing roofs…). The curator’s text points out that these activists saw no contradiction between dressing stylishly and militating for equal rights (though I must say that their long-skirted suits and uniforms are more smart than chic). In the shop afterward, pens shaped like red lipsticks ($3) were going fast.