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Romantic Appeal

April 23, 1993|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Wide Sargasso Sea"

The Setup: Mid-19th-Century drama about Antoinette Cosway (Karina Lombard, pictured right), a gorgeous, rich, white Jamaican native, and the uptight Englishman, Rochester (Nathaniel Parker), who marries her. Novelist Jean Rhys' version of the story behind the first Mrs. Rochester lurking in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre."

The Costume Designer: Norma Moriceau, an Australian-based designer whose credits include "Patriot Games," "Crocodile Dundee," "Dead Calm" and "Mad Max II" and "III."

The Look: A must-see for fans of romantic period costume, "Sea" offers oceans of French post-Empire/early Victorian gowns and men's frock coats and trousers designed with the appropriate tropical twists, including splendid straw top hats. Although at times it looks as if one pattern was repeated for the huge, puffy-sleeved dresses that bare shoulders and cinch waists, they appear in a surprising palette of hot tropical colors. The piece de resistance is Antoinette's riding habit--an elongated pale blue silk coat, lavender skirt and top hat tied with a trailing chiffon scarf. Talk about fantasy.

Equally appealing are native clothes worn by Antoinette's nurse Christophene (Claudia Robinson), maid Amelie (Rowena King, pictured left) and others. Their cotton dresses, with long, ruffled skirts and head wraps were made of bright hand-printed cotton plaids, dots and stripes.

The Sex Appeal Factor: Antoinette and Rochester don't waste too much time getting hot and bothered in their dress clothes. She spends hours in her drawers; he in tight trousers and brocade suspenders. Hold the shirt.

Quoted: "This is an island girl, and I thought she'd be tempted by good emotional colors," said Moriceau, who took artistic license with the hues, dressing Antoinette in such shades as African violet, hibiscus reds and tropical greens.

Inspiration: Jamaican and Caribbean prints of native scenes and languid sensual portraits of the period, including those by Ingres.

Sources: Antoinette's dresses were made in Los Angeles. Some silks came from International Silks & Woolens. Much of the menswear was rented from Berman's, Nathan's and Morris Angel & Son costume houses in England.

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