March 21, 2005 12:00 PM

At the New York City book-packaging company where she worked in 2000, Ann Brashares, then 33, was chatting with another woman “about clothes and boys” when her colleague said something astonishing. “She told me about this pair of jeans she shared with some friends,” says Brashares. “I loved the idea. A shirt can more easily fit different people, but jeans are more judgmental. It totally captured my fancy.”

And so began The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants—the middle and high school must-read that sold 1.4 million copies and spawned an April 2003 hit sequel, The Second Summer of the Sisterhood. Brashares’s latest, Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood, debuted in January and hit No. 3 on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List. The pants in question: magical thrift-shop jeans that look good on four very different teenage girls who, in sharing them, are reminded of the power of friendship—and of their hidden strengths.

Though the notion is fanciful, the girls’ world is not; Brashares’s characters must cope with challenges including death, divorce and crushes on the soccer coach. Her ability to keep it all real has won attention from critics, readers and, now, Hollywood. On June 3 The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants will hit the big screen; its stars include Amber Tamblyn and America Ferrera, who says she’s now a fan: “Ann has an amazing talent for communicating the nuances of a young girl’s life.”

The question, of course, is what Brashares, a mother of three who lives with artist husband Jacob Collins on Manhattan’s East Side, will wear to the movie’s premiere. Now at work on the final book in the Sisterhood series, along with a novel for adults (“It’s about a young woman who has a special connection to people’s things—she worked at a Lost and Found”), she’s been too busy to obsess about evening wear. Still, the author knows her outfit will have to have just the right vibe. “I’ve always been superstitious about clothing,” says Brashares. “Even now I have lucky socks.”

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