When in Doubt, Look Appropriate

The Movie: "Dave"

The Setup: Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is hired to be a stand-in for U.S. President Bill Mitchell, although Kovic's job becomes full time when the real President falls ill. Sigourney Weaver (pictured, with Kline) plays First Lady Ellen Mitchell.

The Costume Designers: For Weaver's character, it was Ann Roth, whose long roster of films includes "Places in the Heart," "Silkwood," "Nine to Five," "Dressed to Kill" and "Hair," plus Broadway plays, including "The House of Blue Leaves," "Purlie" and "The Odd Couple." Richard Hornung ("This Boy's Life," "Barton Fink," "The Grifters" and "Young Guns") dressed the men.

The Look: Presidential deja vu. But what exactly is it about all those sober navy suits and discrete neckties that makes Dave/Bill look so faultless? Above the neck, he's obviously George Bush-ian with the familiar squared-off aviator glasses and the corner-barbershop haircut. From the neck down, though, he's strictly Commander-in-Chic Ronald Reagan.

"Bush wore soft shoulders and mingy suits," says Hornung. "We wanted a more imperial and elegant President. Reagan wore all custom shirts and suits, obviously generously cut."

The single-breasted, notch-lapel suits are all made of British wools and are primarily navy solid and navy pin stripe. A word on his tuxedo. The jacket is single breasted with a peak lapel, an effect that Reagan undoubtedly understood "makes you look more shouldery and expansive," notes Hornung.

Sex Appeal: It just doesn't equate with the leadership look. It's more about When in Doubt, Look Appropriate. Weaver's Ellen does it with four-inches-below-the-knee skirts and no-diamonds-in-the-daytime accessories.

Try This at Home: For men who could use a dose of authority, consider the authentic power tie. It's usually red, save for those offbeat navy blue days, and composed of tiny patterns or stripes. In comparison, the colorful neckwear of TV conservative, John McLaughlin, looks over the top. In real life he hosts the news commentary show, "The McLaughlin Group," and he makes a cameo appearance in the movie.

Quoted: "Politicians wear nothing that could be interpreted as too groovy," says Hornung. "The only groovy sort of people in Washington are lobbyists."

Sources: L.A.'s Western Costume stitched the Bill/Dave suits, and his shirts were made at Reagan's shirt maker, Anto in Beverly Hills. His ties were mostly Polo/Ralph Lauren. Werner Kulovits, a New York costume maker, did Weaver's clothes.

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