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SCREEN STYLE

Dressed Up Like Fish Out of Water

January 06, 1991|BETTY GOODWIN

THE MOVIE: "Mermaids."

THE SCRIPT: An oddball family is run by Mrs. Flax (Cher, pictured), the unorthodox matriarch and single parent who raises awkward Charlotte (Winona Ryder) and adorable little Kate (Christina Ricci). Lou (Bob Hoskins), the shoe store owner, has a crush on Mrs. Flax and wants her to settle down with him. But she has a hard time staying in one place for long.

THE LOOK: The story is set in 1963 and the garb is true to the time. Cher's Mrs. Flax is the movie's clotheshorse and as everyone knows, Cher is a thoroughbred when it comes to playing that role in real life. British costume designer Marit Allen confirms that Cher's input was significant, and the actress's role model for her character was her own free-spirited mother, Georgia Holt. Mrs. Flax teeters to her secretarial jobs on open-toe mules. Her outfits alternate between snug polka-dot dresses and wonderful skintight capri pants with no room for lunch. As for the daughters, they're a purposely dowdy pair, dressed in schoolgirl basics. Hoskins is fairly nondescript looking in his open-neck sports shirts and baggy suits.

THE SOURCES: Georgia Holt's closet and vintage clothing stores throughout the Northeast, including several shops, Strutters and the Garment Depot in Boston, where the film was shot. The one scene-stealing mermaid costume Cher wears was a tour de force, "built," says Allen, by the dressmakers for the Boston Ballet.

WORD OF MOUTH: With a body as perfect as Cher's and a script that allows for limitless kookiness, the fashion disappointment in this movie was that too many scenes featured Mrs. Flax wearing baggy old sweaters and jeans.

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