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FASHION / SCREEN STYLE

Well, at Least There Was Consistency

July 07, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Forrest Gump."

The Setup: Life of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks, pictured), a Southern man with a "below normal" IQ, and his childhood friend Jenny (Robin Wright, pictured). The story spans the early 1950s to the early '80s.

The Costume Designer: London-based Joanna Johnston, whose credits include "Back to the Future," "Death Becomes Her," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" and "Far and Away."

The Look: Doubtful to launch any fashion movements, Gump Style can only be called half-boy, half-nerd. Throughout 83 clothing changes, the beauty in the costuming, however, is in its consistency through the decades. When the inevitable "Saturday Night Live" skit comes around, you can be sure Gump will wear a blue plaid shirt buttoned to the top, pressed cotton chinos, "Leave It to Beaver" striped socks and--for the year's fashion product endorsement extraordinaire--Nike athletic shoes.

Short Hair Day: Gump's ungainly, stubby razor cut evolved from the theory that his mama would have sent him to the barbershop every week and as an adult he'd think of no reason to do differently, agreed Johnston and director Robert Zemeckis.

Dressing the Masses: Tens of thousands of costumes were employed for the epic story involving 143 speaking parts and thousands of extras shot in 11 states. For the most part, the non-principals' clothes were culled from vintage clothing vendors all over the country. "We accumulated warehouses full of clothes," Johnston says.

Quoted: "It was a big logistical challenge," Johnston says. "Funnily enough, the script didn't read as big. We all thought it would be a nice little love story. But it just grew in preparations. Bob Zemeckis has the most brilliant, crazy mind. You had to be able to say, 'Winter, New York, 1972,' and immediately know the look."

Hit: While many contemporary films tend to make '60s clothes look ghastly, Jenny's hippie days are wistfully beautiful. Standouts include two Afghanistan embroidered coats (one custom-made locally in wine velvet, one vintage Mongolian lamb), antique petticoats and her antique silk georgette wedding dress.

Trivia: The exceedingly average-looking blue plaid shirt that Gump wears at the bus stop bench was custom-made by Venice Custom Shirts in Los Angeles. "I laid it out very, very carefully. I wanted all the plaid mismatching and one side of the collar slightly longer than the other so it looks cheap," Johnston says. For that matter, Gump's ordinary trousers and suits were custom-made as well.

Inspiration: Masses of research included photos of mental patients and Southerners in the 1940s and period Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogues. For Jenny's '60s phase, photos of French singer Francoise Hardy as well as personal photo albums of friends were used.

Sources: Aside from vintage clothes, most of the costumes were made in production wardrobe departments in three states.

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