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The Final Date with Destiny : It's ghastly, even morbid, you say, for perfectly healthy people to pick out burial clothes. Still, a few do have outfits in mind.

March 19, 1993|JOANNA RAEBEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"I wouldn't be caught dead in that!"

Who hasn't uttered those catty words once or twice? But, then, what would we be caught dead in?

Maybe you'd rather not think about which of your suits or dresses would go nicely with lavender satin, but a few folks clearly have. When it comes to being attired for that Final Date With Destiny, they've got it down, some even to the underwear.

For Cosmo editor and admitted Pucci-addict Helen Gurley Brown, it's the silk Pucci minidress she bought in 1967, about a year into a habit begun after she took over at the magazine.

She was--and still is--"nutty" about Pucci creations "and the whole look--the skimpy, sexy, colorful, pared-down, gorgeously engineered stuff." About 1970, though, when she was in her late 40s--"pretty young to be thinking about your burial robe"--she decided she had it, the one she wanted to be put away in.

"I knew I would never find anything that I loved better," she says. The gesture will be "my personal tribute to this wonderful designer."

Lypsinka is pretty young to be making any such final decisions. Asked what might be among the chosen, she's of two minds: clothes she's worn and clothes she hasn't--yet. She sang, so to speak, the praises of an inspired little frock by Gianfranco Ferre for Christian Dior that she wore on the HBO Sandra Bernhard special last year.

"The day that I flew up to L.A. to film the TV special," Lypsinka says, "I picked up Vogue at the airport here in New York and saw the table of contents with a picture of Christy Turlington wearing this dress: It was floral print and had these ruffles and pleats and panels and all kinds of different design ideas. So I get to the set in L.A. later that day, and Andre Leon Talley of Vogue is holding the dress and waiting for me, and all of a sudden I'm wearing that dress . . . ."

Some people have all the luck.

As for what she's hoping to wear someday, veteran Hollywood costume designers Jean Louis (as in Marilyn Monroe's infamous "just skin-and-beads" gown) and Theadora Van Runkle ("Leap of Faith," "The Butcher's Wife") get the hooray.

Christian Francis Roth, for whom age 30 is still a good ways off, isn't giving it a whole lot of thought. Or the clothes part of it, anyway.

"I don't know what I'd be buried in," says the wunderkind designer, but I'd be buried with my Wednesday Addams doll. I love that doll, it's from 1950, and if anything could make me rise from the dead, it'd be that."

As for BillyBoy*, whose name is practically synonymous with dolls, any talk of designer this or designer that just makes him cringe. "I hope that I'm not in any way buried in a designer outfit or anything ghastly like that," says the man who boasts of the world's largest private collection of haute couture. He's planning to have his body burnt at an altar, and, therefore, "I just want there to be a shroud. I want to go up in smoke."

"Yes," he says, warming to the subject: "I want to be buried in my favorite smoke."

Come to think of it, maybe nothing at all would be better. If you come in naked, why not go out that way? "It makes perfect sense," he says. "They should just put you out naked with a lei of flowers around your ankles, around your neck. I think that would be very, very chic."

Should the Grim Reaper insist on taking out romance author Ivana Trump, she's put aside a dearly beloved black silk crepe pleated gown by Madame Gres of Paris.

Black may be what rapper Big Daddy Kane's mourners will be wearing, but it'll be the color purple for him, as in a plum silk double-breasted suit, plum shoes, and plum silk drawers.

Designer Betsey Johnson's thinking color, too--as in something to dye for, you might say. Asked what she might have on, Johnson responded with a laugh: "My overdyes!" That is, "the clothes I overdye that look dead and wrinkled" and are, she says, "the junk I live in."

Then there are those who say they don't much care. "I'm absolutely indifferent," says writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp. "Once I'm dead, you can do anything you like with me."

Even Mr. Best and Worst himself, Blackwell, professes disdain. "For once, I don't care what they think about me," he says. "I'm gonna wear jeans, Reeboks with no socks, and a T-shirt. I'm gonna take my one gold chain with my $20 gold piece in case I need toll money to get over that Big Bridge. When I make this journey, honey, I want to be comfortable."

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