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All Dolled Up for the Big Game

The film: “A League of Their Own.”

The scene: In lieu of male players who have gone off to war, a professional women’s baseball team bats up in 1943 in the American Midwest. The players include long-legged catcher Dottie Hinson (Geena Davis), her kid sister Kit Keller (Lori Petty, pictured) and a one-time dance hall hostess Mae Mordabito (Madonna). Sharing the dugout is their boozing coach, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks).

The look: The men who ran the All American Girls Professional Baseball League dressed the players like dolls in pastel dresses. The management had little regard for the protection of their players’ skin when they slid into bases and their circle skirts went flying, but, hey, they sure looked cute. Costume designer Cynthia Flynt replicated these uniforms almost exactly. (She took liberties with the hemline regulation of the day that had dresses stop at three inches above the knee.)

But every other detail of the uniform is preserved--the team chest patches, the buttons, the zippers, the double socks, the satin shorts underneath to preserve decency--so there’s a genuine sense of history here. Off the field, Flynt does justice to the players’ rural, Midwestern roots (many were farmers or factory workers) and doesn’t over-glamorize them. There’s a real sense of Americana. Few wear jewelry and most of their straw hats look as flat as proverbial pancakes and worn out. Mostly they wear simple blouses, cardigans and full skirts or day dresses cut just below the knee and slight platform pumps, sandals or saddle shoes.

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Dottie may be the star player, but fashionwise she’s no better or worse off than the rest. OK, once she turns up in the prettiest monogrammed sweater and another time in a sweet lilac dress, but you get the feeling that those are the top of the line for her. Fashion trends are in evidence too--Hawaiian prints had become popular, and Mae and Kit both show up in Hawaiian-floral dresses, and Dottie, Kit, Evelyn (Bitty Schram) and her son all show up in sailor-style shirts or slacks, a style that stood for wartime patriotism.

The men, including Hanks’ Jimmy, scout Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz) and PR man Ira Lowenstein (David Strathairn), wear loosely tailored suits in browns and tans with significantly ugly printed ties. (Were all ‘40s ties so bad?)

The sources: All uniforms were custom-made at Sportsrobe. Civilian clothes are a mix of Flynt’s new designs and vintage picks culled from thrift shops and antique stores throughout the Midwest.

The payoff: Flynt plays more for realism than theatrics, and the result is believable cheesecake.

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