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THE STYLE FILES: THE PICTURES : The Trunk Show : When designer chic meets K mart, the result is 'The Nanny's' colorful wardrobe. It's outrageous, over-the-top--and definitely unforgettable.

March 14, 1994|JOANNA DENDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's late on a Wednesday afternoon at the Culver Studios in Culver City. Actress Fran Drescher, star of the CBS sitcom, "The Nanny," huddles with costume designer Brenda Cooper in a wardrobe room filled with shopping bags, purses, hats, sketches, Polaroids, scripts, dangling earrings and racks of leopard-spotted clothing.

Drescher, dressed in a white brocade Dolce & Gabbana pantsuit with white Stephane Kelian mules, and Cooper, in pleated pants and a '40s thrift-store blouse, are concocting a tarty ensemble for Drescher's character--and alter ego--Fran Fine to wear on a fictitious Caribbean cruise.

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A nanny who's a glamour puss from Queens taking care of an upper-crust British family was Drescher's idea. And much of the show's humor comes from Drescher's character's outrageous wardrobe.

She's "the lady in red while everyone else is wearing tan," go the theme song's lyrics. In a single episode Drescher has as many wardrobe changes as Princess Di goes through in a week.

Judging by the fan mail, "The Nanny's" over-the-top outfits are as big a hit as the show.

"I sometimes forget what the show is about," says one L.A. stylist, "but I never forget the clothes."

Drescher says when people stop her on the street for her autograph, they also want to know where she buys her clothes.

The answer: everywhere from K mart to Neiman Marcus. Cooper relies on Drescher's favorite labels--Todd Oldham, Norma Kamali, Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana--for her main labels. But she has stumbled on the unexpected item at resale stores, thrift shops and garage sales. A recent thrill was finding a pale blue jacket with matching fur trim at Loehmann's.

"We use a lot of Moschino and Todd Oldham because they have a sense of humor," says Cooper.

In fact, a silk patchwork robe Drescher tries on during this afternoon fitting is a gift from Oldham; it's made entirely of fabric squares from past designs.

Drescher says when she wears Oldham's theatrical designs off camera, "the photographers have a field day."

The actress appears statuesque on camera, despite the fact that she wears only a Size 2 or Size 4. Perhaps it's the New Yawk drawl--or her over-the-top portrayals of characters in films like "This Is Spinal Tap," "Cadillac Man" and "The Big Picture"--that make Drescher loom large.

It was on the ill-fated CBS series "Princesses"--co-starring Twiggy and Julie Haggerty--that Drescher met Brenda Cooper. The costume designer helped Drescher define Fran Fine's image, which is, as one critic put it, "Funny Girl" meets "The Sound of Music."

The prototypal "Nanny" suit consists of a bright Moschino jacket (from the Cheap and Chic collection) worn over a black spandex, mock turtleneck top and black spandex miniskirt. And always, always, sexy high heels. The original "Nanny" shoe was a 4 1/2-inch pump by Charles Jourdan. Then Cooper found copies at J.C. Penney for $50 a pair. She bought all the shoes the store had in Drescher's size and, each episode, she dyes them to match.

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Cooper fits Drescher in a sarong she's fashioned from a swath of crushed velvet from International Silks and Woolens, a black crushed velvet midriff-baring top and black capri leggings. The two women examine the finished product in a full-length mirror. Something's missing. . . . Ahhh, oversized tropical fruit earrings. The Nanny meets Carmen Miranda.

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