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Forget ‘Must-See TV’; Series Vying for ‘Must-Wear’ Label

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Debra McGuire knows all about the thought and brainstorming that go into dressing TV characters. She has spent eight years dressing Rachel, Phoebe, Monica, Ross, Joey and Chandler for NBC’s “Friends.”

That the show influenced fashion (and hair) on the streets doesn’t completely surprise McGuire, who has a store in Pacific Palisades and a handbag line.

“I think what ‘Friends’ did then--like ‘Sex and the City'--was extremely radical. It created an environment that people wanted to be part of. They wanted to hang out in the loft, in the coffee shop and to carry the handbags.”

Although movies were influencing clothing long before television, it is television’s daily presence in people’s lives that gives it so much influence on fashion, says Mark-Evan Blackman, an assistant professor and chairman of the department of menswear at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

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“Prior to television, people didn’t realize how other people lived,” he says. “My mother grew up in Harlem and she said, ‘We didn’t realize we were poor until a neighbor got a television.’ ”

MTV took imitation several steps further.

“At one point, if you were a middle-class kid in Nebraska, you weren’t wearing oversized jeans, hats on backward and large logo T-shirts. That all changed with MTV,” Blackman says. Now, “someone can get in their car and drive from Boston to Laguna Beach and ... every 14-year-old girl will be dressed alike.

“That is because of the power of television.”

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But with “Friends” beginning its fade-out (this probably will be the last season), and “Sex and the City” on a maternity leave of sorts (for Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon), are there any new shows this season that might pick up the fashion slack?

If any theme is emerging so far, it’s vintage and it’s rich (sometimes too rich for the salaries that the characters probably would collect, but we’re not talking reality TV here).

In CBS’ drama “CSI: Miami,” costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom went darker than the South Florida stereotype.

“Because pastels were done before on ‘Miami Vice,’ I didn’t want the [new] show to replicate that whatsoever. I wanted deeper, richer tones,” Bergstrom says.

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They may be mucking around in homicides, but that doesn’t mean Bergstrom can’t dress crime-scene investigator Horatio Caine (David Caruso) in Helmut Lang suits and richly colored shirts from Prada and Gucci. And you can expect Bergstrom to dress the “serious and sophisticated” DNA specialist Megan Donner (Kim Delaney) in Chloe, Dolce & Gabbana and Theory.

Over at Fox, the drama “Fastlane” has costume designer Julie Schklair outfitting undercover cops in Guess, Hugo Boss and Donna Karan.

Tiffani Thiessen’s character, Billie, “is very androgynous--sexy, edgy,” Schklair says. For the guys, when “they are wearing suits, we keep their shirts untucked and open-necked.”

The message that clothes send not only to the streets but also about the characters is not lost on television executive Susanne Daniels.

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She had a hand in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” a show that gave teens more than fashion inspiration in Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy and Alyson Hannigan’s Willow. Now, Daniels is executive producer for NBC’s comedy “Hidden Hills.”

So, how does she go from outfitting hip, cool teens to couples living the suburban life?

Beyond the blue jeans, Daniels says, there was debate over walking the line between an image of “a good parent, yet still young and sexy.”

If you want some cues for yourself, consider that character Belinda (Kristin Bauer) showed up in khaki capris to help coach softball. “It was really important that she look hot, but not over the top,” Daniels says. “Shorts was trying too hard.”

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Judy Hevrdejs is a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune company.


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