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The Pros Know : Want to update your wardrobe? Our experts say: Be individuals, and please lose the hippie-retro stuff


If you're mulling over your wardrobe, consider taking some advice from music video stylists who get paid to be at the forefront of what's current and what's passe.

Kim Bowen, a leading English stylist who lives in Hollywood, counts Janet Jackson's "If" video among her credits. Stephen Earabino has styled for Whitney Houston and Taylor Dayne. Danny Flynn's music videos include ones by En Vogue and new releases by David Bowie and Mica Paris.

These pros have three bits of basic advice for the trend-battered: Look forward (a not-too subtle wake-up call for those still wearing bell-bottoms), individualize rather than follow the masses, and don't adopt a look because it looked good on someone else.

Bowen's idea of the perfect summer outfit is "a vulgar bikini, sun block on your nose, a convertible and Chanel No. 5." She'd ditch the fake English look (floral dresses knotted in front and floppy hats), bikinis with inflatable or padded tops and walking shorts--"really ugly and never do anybody any favors."

Earabino would like to deep-six '70s revival fashions. He prefers a waif look for women and men, as well as the unisex dandy clothes.

These Edwardian ruffles and velvets are great for men and women, Flynn agrees. He also advocates unisex sarongs. "I wear one all the time. They're perfect for summer when you don't want to wear clothes." He'd outlaw hip-hop clothes, which he calls "hoodlum wear."

* About skirts: All three say longer is better. "They're magnificent for people with legs like pianos, of whom there are legions," says Bowen.

"I especially like the new lines that are long, but not tight, almost an A-line," says Earabino. "That's a really beautiful shape for women."

As to ultra-short shorts and microminis, "God help anyone who doesn't have perfect muscular legs and tush," says Bowen. When shopping, "Make sure you've got a very good mirror and can see your back view and don't listen to salespeople. Take your best friend with you."

* On the canvas industrial mechanic look: "Maybe for around the house," says Flynn.

"These are the clothes we laughed at our parents for wearing, and now we're wearing them," says Earabino, who likes original brands, including Dickies Industrial Ware, Ben Davis and Carhardt.

Bowen says, "I love the look of never-worn, really stiff clothes. Right now everything is incredibly clean, not scruffy. That appeals to me."

* Regarding sportswear several sizes too large: "The more extreme the better," says Bowen. 'You see kids swamped by their clothes with little pin heads coming out the top--I love that look."

"I like baggy pants, but they're not going to happen in the mainstream for a long time," says Earabino. "They look a little silly when people get older. When the 30s group tries to do it, it doesn't work."

"I don't like baggy pants at all," says Flynn. "I like fitted, slight flares, as long as they're a little shorter, to the ankle."

* Hippie retro: Unanimous groans. "I really cannot stand bell-bottoms," says Flynn.

"They should go away," says Earabino.

"I can't bear retrospective fashion. I'd rather walk around in Saran Wrap," Bowen says.

* About shoes: Thumbs up to suede Pumas and old-fashioned, shell-toe, low-rise basketball sneakers by Adidas.

Big black Army boots look newer than Doc Martens, which have become too widely accepted to have an edge anymore, Earabino says.

The jury is out on platforms. Bowen is so pleased with the extra height that platforms give she's not yet willing to part with them. She advises choosing only the most elegant and forgetting the cloddy Frankenstein versions.

"A slight platform is great," says Earabino. "I don't like the freaky wide heels that curve out."

Flynn says he's tired of the platform shoe, but still marvels at the skyscraper soles by designer Vivienne Westwood.

* On headgear: You don't have to throw out your baseball caps, even though they've been rap-video and streetwear staples for years. The best caps are those no one else has.

"You need to find great patches and do it yourself," says Flynn. 'I like off kinds of things, like STP patches. You go to secondhand shops and find '60s and '70s patches that people used to use on their jeans."

Another way to personalize the baseball cap, says Earabino, is to have your name embroidered on it, like kids do with mouse ears at Disneyland. "There's a cart in the Santa Monica Place mall where you can get your name done in Old English letters."

* On camera: "The age of the rock video babe is over," Earabino declares. He bans overtly sexy spandex and bustiers in his videos. He likes the street look of Dickies work clothes, cut-off shorts and socks worn with Birkenstocks or shower sandals.

An amusing detail Bowen might use in a video is one she saw recently on reggae star Shabba Ranks. "'He was wearing pants with the security tag still attached."

For Flynn, dressing up musicians for the next video might mean a visit to the cutting-edge sportswear company Dolce & Gabbana. "It's a line that has the right look of the moment," he says.

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