''Fashion is what people tell you to wear,'' she often said. ''Style is what comes from your own inner thing.'' Pauline Trigre was born in 1908 in the Pigalle district of Paris to Russian-Jewish parents. Her mother was a dressmaker and her father a tailor who had made military uniforms for Russian aristocrats. She remembered designing her first dress in her early teens. Though dressmaking was in her blood, she fancied drama or medicine as possible carrers, but having married a taylor, she was drawn back into the field of couture. In 1937 the family left Paris, fearing the rise of Hitler. They arrived in New York and though they were supposed to immigrate to Chilie, they decided that New York was perfect. Soon they opened a little dress shop with her brother and by the late 1940s they were gaining a large following. She was noted not only for her designing skills, but also for her tailoring and such touches as constructing dresses with no obvious seams. She herself was an exemplar of style, and was described by her peers as ''a truly intellectual designer'' and ''a creator of timeless fashion'' in ready-to-wear clothes. Like Lanvin and Chanel, Trigere never sketched a design, rather she would drape and pin to achieve each style. Miss Trigre wore only her own designs, and she generally punctuated them with several of her trademark turtle pins and bright red lipstick. A woman of great conviction, she was the first name designer to use an African- American model (in 1961). She also insisted on being the announcer for her fashion shows, pointing out the fabrics and details as each design was displayed. Pauline Trigere received, in addition to three Coty Awards and inclusion in the Coty Hall of Fame, major fashion awards from Neiman Marcus and Filene's, the National Cotton Award and both the silver and the vermeil medals of the City of Paris.