Imagine having Vogue editor-at-large André Leon Talley compliment your style.

Then imagine you're an aspiring designer at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Sort of like sitting on top of the world, eh?

Well, that's how five Art Institute of Philadelphia students felt Thursday at the Four Seasons in Center City when Talley, the gregarious friend of Oprah, Oscar and Obama, picked them out of a standing-room-only crowd to praise their personal style.

"Fashion may not be the most important thing in life, but it definitely helps you get through it," he said.

Talley's column, "Life With André," appears monthly in American Vogue magazine.

It details the fashion editor's visits to couture designers' studios such as Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera.

He began writing in 1998, and the inside look at high fashion's obligatory air-kissing and gushing is now a magazine staple.

Talley is also a fashion commentator during the Academy Awards.

Talley made the one-day stop in Philadelphia to speak to Art Institute of Philadelphia students at the request of fashion professor Emil De John, who met Talley in February during New York's Fashion Week. Talley struck up a conversation about the bespectacled professor's trademark vintage briefcase, and De John asked Talley to come speak to his students. Talley agreed, so on the day after the Phillies won the World Series, he spoke to a room of fashionistas bedecked in red.

Those entrenched in Philadelphia's style scene also filled the rows. Eager to meet him were Mary K. Dougherty, owner of two Nicole Miller boutiques; Marissa Guaglione-Stevens of Fashion Group International; Joan Pileggi, former owner of Pileggi boutique; and Andrea Chila, the current owner of Pileggi.

Talley wore a navy blue Giorgio Armani suit (the same one he wore to Yves St. Laurent's funeral in Paris in June), and velvet Manolo Blahnik sandals.

In an accent that sounded more British than Southern, Talley talked about his early years growing up with his grandmother, Bennie Francis Davis, in Durham, N.C.

With her blue-tinted hair and sharp, navy blue suits, Davis taught Talley the details of fine dress.

"We didn't have a lot of money, and she may have had three pairs of shoes, but you could believe those were the best shoes," Talley said.

Talley decided when he was a preteen that he wanted to be a fashion editor. "I was always reading Vogue!"

After college, he moved to New York to work with art icon Andy Warhol at Interview magazine. He worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with former Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, who became one of his role models.

After his speech, the floor opened up to questions, which Talley answered in the name-dropping cadence of his monthly column.

Some of the tidbits: He loves Jennifer Lopez and singer Rihanna's style. UGGs are the best - he's got 12 pairs. "At $100, what a bargain!"

He was impressed with Michelle Obama's canary-yellow cardigan sweater and pencil skirt she recently wore on the Tonight show. "I was the first to say she was channeling Jackie Kennedy."

The students were impressed, especially the five he singled out.

"I left feeling great," said 20-year-old student Ambria Ryan Bradshaw, who wore a deep red, fitted empire-waist dress and fingerless black lace gloves.

"I'm an aspiring fashion stylist. To think, I was going to buy an entire outfit for this occasion. I just put this together at the last minute."

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704, or e-mail her at