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Weird Ties and Silly Hats

December 25, 1992|BETTY GOODWIN


THE SCENE: The patriarch of Zevo Toys dies, leaving his company in the hands of his militaristic brother, Gen. Leland Zevo (Michael Gambon), instead of his own progeny, Leslie (Robin Williams, pictured) and Alsatia (Joan Cusack).

THE COSTUME DESIGNER: Albert Wolsky, Academy Award winner for "All That Jazz" and "Bugsy."

THE LOOK: Unlike the movie's billboards, which portray Leslie in a Magritte-inspired red derby with a hole showing a cloud-filled blue sky, the costumes emphasize playful innocence over Dada-esque surrealism.

Nevertheless, the striking red derby appears in a key scene (minus the hole) on both Leslie and Alsatia. Early on, Williams wears a black derby, and if anyone doubts whether a hat alone can be an inspiring piece of whimsy, just see "Chaplin."

It's Cusack's Alsatia, though, who walks off with some of the best costumes, including fantastic two-dimensional paper doll dresses, tags and all, worn with riotous hard-hair helmets.

When she's not a paper doll, she's a baby doll in layers of lace and embroidery, all of the coochy-coo genre. Here's this big, grown woman in white lace jackets, nighties, bonnets, long and frumpy dresses, clunky shoes and funny cloches. Wolsky says Alsatia's look was inspired by Victorian dolls, and the idea works.

Williams' Leslie is less visually striking. He wears loose, dark Japanese suits and oddball accessories--a tapestry fez, a beanie, painted vests, weird bow ties. Because the actor's personal style is so strongly linked to his funny persona, Wolsky and director Barry Levinson let his somewhat wacky look come through--and then pushed the envelope.

THE SCENE STEALER: Williams' musical jacket, which makes noise when he moves, was created by Italian actor-inventor Giancarlo Giannini. "I sent him a sketch showing roughly what it should look like, asking him to expose and exaggerate the wires and speakers and buttons and make it more theatrical," says Wolsky. "We faxed back and forth. It was very interesting."

QUOTED: "He's a total clotheshorse. He's totally unafraid. He loves to dress up. He favors Japanese designers," says Wolsky of Williams' interest in clothes.

THE RESEARCH: Besides Magritte images, Wolsky looked at children's books and old doll books.

THE SOURCES: Los Angeles milliner Harry Rotz, owner of Harry Hatz, made the red derby; the black derby and the beanie came from Williams' closet. Williams wears Matsuda, Miyaka, Byblos and Yamamoto suits; hand-painted vests by L.A. artist Terry Anderson and some printed silk shirts and vests by L.A.'s John Valdi. Some of Alsatia's outfits were custom-made, with other pieces coming from Repeat Performance. Rob Botin made her hard hair of molded fiberglass.

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