Like E. F. Hutton, when Diane Keaton is in a movie, fashion people listen--and take a good hard look.
Keaton started a dressing revolution with her baggy-tailored clothes, horn-rimmed glasses and brow-covering hats in "Annie Hall." This time the movie is "Baby Boom," and Keaton plays an ad agency executive on the fast track. What she wears at the office may give "dress for success" a whole new meaning: femininity.
Her business suits, and occasional coatdresses, fit close to the body and are nipped in further at the waist, with wide belts cinched over the jackets. Shoulder pads have been softly rounded to replace the Raiders-linebacker look of yore. Her skirts are narrow and short--by Madison Avenue standards anyway--stopping just below the knee. Her jewelry is bold and personal, a Mexican pin fastened to a lapel or the neck of a blouse. A revolution? Maybe it isn't, but fashion forecasters think the subtleties are noteworthy.
"I don't think it's new if you take all the elements apart, but how they're pulled together is the key," noted Margit Sperling, owner of Regine on Melrose. "We've had belts, but we haven't put them over a suit. Putting on the belt, bringing up the hemline, showing the body and wearing a Brooks Brothers shirt but in satin, the suit has become sexy."
"It's kind of like body-suiting, meaning the suit shows off the body," said Bari Lipp, vice president and senior editor of Tobe Associates in New York, a merchandising consulting firm. "Heretofore, suits for the new businesswoman have been dumb looking, and the skirts were a nowhere length. I think the movie could be wonderful for the suit business, and it could do wonders for the shirt business. We haven't seen any good-looking shirts in a while." "They're soft and sexy men's suits," said Caroldean Ross of Apropros in Woodland Hills. "They show that you don't have to be locked into conservative, constructed suits to look professional."
Fashion professionals aren't the only ones taking notice. "Diane said it was the first time her father liked the way she looked in a movie," remarked "Baby Boom's" costume designer Susan Becker.
Given a four-week deadline, Becker purchased Keaton's wardrobe at specialty stores, including Charivari, Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman in New York. Among the labels she bought were Norma Kamali (for the satin blouses), Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Krizia, Cerruti, Matsuda and Calvin Klein for the tailored jackets, skirts and suits. Some of clothes bore the stores' private labels, said Becker.
Several shoulder bags, which Keaton's J. C. Wiatt character wears strapped across her chest, came from Botega Veneta. "But I didn't use the woven ones, maybe because her clothes were more hard-edged," Becker said. The high-heeled pumps were all
Bergdorf Goodman's label. "For me," said Becker (whose previous credits include "Lost Boys," "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "St. Elmo's Fire") "you can't beat a classic pump." The nude-tone panty hose carried Saks Fifth Avenue's private label.
They may be details, but to Becker they were important in building J.C.'s wardrobe. "I asked myself, 'What would J. C. Wiatt have in her closet?' She's not the kind of person who'd be paying a lot of attention to her clothes. She'd go to a store and buy the same pair of shoes in every color--brown suede, black leather, black patent--and not worry about it anymore, which is what I did. She doesn't have time to get things that are trendy or too fashion-y."
Thought of Hepburn
For inspiration, Becker said that she and Keaton both thought of Katherine Hepburn. "That kind of simple, elegant, classic look. Who could imagine Katherine Hepburn wearing something frivolous or unnecessary?" The wide belts were a natural, she said, because Becker imagined J.C. having a closet full of them in every skin imaginable. They also showed off Keaton's slim waist.
While producers Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers envisioned J.C. in clothes that were luxurious yet "attainable, so people had something to relate to," Becker said, Keaton's personal taste couldn't be discounted. "We were all in sync, but Diane has such a great eye. She's an artist.
"In real life Diane dresses nothing like J. C. Wiatt at all, but still there's something of her style in it. With another actor, you wouldn't button up shirts all the way. And I was trying to get her into a Chanel suit but she wouldn't wear it. She hates those gold buttons. I think I brought in a Chanel blouse and she wouldn't put that on either. That was going too far with the rich look."