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On the Job With Costume Designer Robert Turturice in the Fantasy World of a Trend-Setting TV Series


Costume designer Robert Turturice sits in the wardrobe department of ABC Circle Films; behind him stretches a line of glamorous garments Cybill Shepherd wore in the just-ended season of TV's "Moonlighting."

Of suits alone, there are literally hundreds. They are mostly silk, with long jackets and short skirts. They are all in pastel tones, none darker than a deep pink.

A few feet away are the scores of suits that Bruce Willis, Shepherd's partner in detection, has worn. The show, which made Willis a star overnight and Shepherd a bigger star than ever, has also brought fame to Turturice, who was recently given the Best-Dressed Series Award by the California Fashion Industry and the California Mart.

The current trend to broad shoulders suits Shepherd perfectly because her own shoulders are broad. "I don't use any pads on Cybill," the designer says. "A slight amount of padding is put into the shoulder seams, but we don't extend her natural shoulder line at all. I love doing strapless gowns, and because Cybill looks so great in them, I put her in one every chance I get. All the gowns are built at Elizabeth Courtney, because they do the best job."

In scenes planned as long shots, Shepherd wears pumps with low heels, but most of the shooting day she changes into her Reebok or New Balance track shoes, and in a few brief instances, these shoes have accidentally been seen on camera.

"Boy, do we get letters about that!" Turturice exclaims. "People try to tell you it's only television and not to bother about details, but the television audience today never misses a thing. We had one very brief shot of Bruce's foot stomping out a cigarette, and I got letters asking where we got the shoes and even his socks!"

Shepherd eventually turned the whole issue of her shoes into a joke by appearing on last year's Emmy Awards broadcast clad in a strapless gown and orange Reeboks.

The biggest news about "Moonlighting's" fashion look has been Turturice's color pallette, which he consistently limits to warm-tone pastels. Pinks, peaches, creams and lavenders abound, with never a trace of blue.

"Cybill's coloring is very fair and bright colors would overpower her; but they would also be distracting dramatically. I usually start with the palest tones as the episode opens and they are getting a new case; then it builds from there." Indeed, the most dramatic episode to date, in which the Shepherd character got involved in the marital problems of her well-to-do parents (Eva Marie Saint and Robert Webber), had even paler tones than usual.

Turturice says each of the leads usually repeats one costume per episode from an earlier show (out of an average six changes per show), which gives the audience a subconscious feeling of continuity.

"Part of it (the color scheme) is my desire to give this show a distinctive look," Turturice says. "But I stay away from light and middle blues in general when I design--and I use navy only occasionally."

Powder-blue men's dress shirts have been a television staple since the black-and-white days, and they are still widely used--but not by Turturice.

"I feel that blue next to the flesh tones can be the most distracting thing. Also, the stations always adjust the broadcast signal to give the best possible flesh tones. This can cause strange changes in the tones of the actors' blue shirts."

Willis' suits are soft browns and grays, even some greens, but never blue.

"If the script called for Bruce to be wearing blue jeans as part of a disguise, I would probably tone the blue down with tan dye," the designer says.

He says he buys about half of Willis' suits from the Alexio and Oliver shops in the Beverly Center.

"They are all by Italian designers, such as Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna and Nino Cerruti," Turturice says. "However, Bruce has 42-inch shoulders and a 31-inch waist, which looks great on camera but does not fit pre-made clothes too well."

That's one reason so many of Willis' suits are made for him, the designer explains. Another reason, he adds, is because "we often need as many as four copies of each suit, two for Bruce, one for his photo double and one for the stunt double. We have a great tailor, and it is becoming increasingly easier, it seems, just to make Bruce's suits from scratch."

Unlike Shepherd, Willis had no public image from previous roles when he was cast in the show. Nor have the scripts so far given the audience much information about his character's background or what he does when away from the office.

While the Shepherd character seems to have been born to wear a new silk suit every day, the Willis character seems to be dressing up in order to fit into her posh Century City office. The tag scene of one episode gave one small clue: wearing a black leather jacket and a T-shirt, he sneaked into her office after hours to leave a rose.

"Moonlighting's" most celebrated episode to date was a 1940s fantasy, introduced by Orson Welles and shot mostly in black and white.

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