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FASHION / INSIDE OUT

Made in America

August 18, 1994|DEBRA GENDEL | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

When Hiro, who trained under Richard Avedon, was asked by Mirabella magazine to come up with the face of American beauty in the '90s, the legendary fashion photographer considered his options.

"I could have gone into the cornfields of Iowa," he said by phone from his New York studio. "Or I could have drawn on the type of beauties from the past, like Ava Gardner or Merle Oberon."

Instead, he chose to create a woman of the future.

The clue to this futuristic female's family tree floats to the left of her cover portrait. A tiny computer chip is a tip-off that Miss September is more (or less) than meets the eye. A computer-generated composite of several women, to be exact.

"When people first see her, they say she's very beautiful," Hiro said. "After I tell them she does not exist, they say, 'I thought there was something weird about her.' "

Others have called her vacant, inhuman, detached, said Pat Beh Werblin, Mirabella's director of communications. (Reminding us of some flesh and blood cover girls.)

Overall, she's not as ethnic as she ought to be, given our increasingly ethnic population. The 35 women Hiro initially interviewed represented a cross-section of ethnicities. He says he wanted to get away from the "peaches and cream, blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordic beauty." Yet the features of his creation remain steadfastly Anglo-European. Ultimately, Hiro photographed five women in similar poses and scanned the photos into an image generator. Then he went to work, blending eyes, noses, skin tones, cheekbones into his own conception of American beauty.

"In America, beauty has a history of being manufactured," said the Chinese-born photographer. George Hurrell made beautiful women ravishing. Calvin Klein turned a skinny adolescent into an object of desire. "The camera sees more than we can ever see. But a photograph doesn't always tell the truth."

*

Skin Deep: The new Miss Teen USA, 17-year-old Shauna Gambill of Acton, Calif., won the swimsuit portion of Tuesday night's pageant in Biloxi, Miss. But like most contest winners who spend countless hours perfecting their physical selves, Shauna subscribes to the it's-what's-inside-that-counts philosophy.

"I would just like to reach the parents out there for more positive parenting so they can raise their children with good morals and values so we won't have the problems that we have today," Shauna told the Associated Press. We would have expected someone like that to, well, perhaps become a teacher or even a social worker. But they don't get to wear those fabulous rhinestone crowns, do they?

*

Maternity Suit: The Pregnancy Survival Kit is the brainchild of two stylish New York women who wanted to stay that way. Faced with a paucity of hip maternity clothes, Cherie Serota and her partner, Jody Kozlow Gardner, devised a four-piece wardrobe-in-a-box that would fit and flatter an expanding torso--for $150. Packaged like a queen-size portion of Chinese takeout, the Pregnancy Survival Kit includes a baby-doll dress with a flattering princess neckline; a simple, long-sleeved tunic; leggings with a four-inch-wide, non-elastic waistband, and a short, slim skirt. All in black, cotton-Lycra, in sizes S, M, L, the pieces will be sold in selected maternity stores beginning Sept. 1. (For information, call (800)-4-9-MONTHS.)

Our own Pregnancy Survival Kit wasn't so fashion-conscious, consisting entirely of Milk Duds and Big Sticks.

*

We Interrupt This Program . . .: "The Bold and the Beautiful" will live up to its name next month, when the CBS soap stages a fashion show billed as "The Grand Diva Collection" as part of its ongoing story line about the rivalry between two fictional L.A. fashion houses. This is fashion on a grand scale--plus-size garments on plus-size beauties.

"With all the attention focused on the waif model, we thought it would be appropriate to focus on the beauty in the plus side of fashion," said Bradley Bell, the show's head writer and supervising producer. L.A. designer Daphne Jogolulos will provide the clothes, while Big Beautiful Woman magazine is supplying technical assistance. The episode will air Sept. 12--"barring pre-emptions for the O.J. Simpson trial."

*

Them's Shoppin' Words: "Walk into any thrift store and you can find tons of kilts," remarked a friend who pshaws the notion of paying more than $3 for such a skirt. All we can say is--she's dreaming! Prowling our usual thrift-store haunts this week, the closest we came to the trendy look was a lime-green blanket-plaid skirt with a triangular hem and sad-looking yellow fringe ($2.99); a red-white-and-black plaid, knife-pleated polyester treasure that hung to mid-calf ($4.99); a fake-fur mini with horizontal, Easter Egg-colored stripes, which, in very bad lighting, might have passed for an Anna Sui ($5.99). We didn't want a stupid kilt, anyway.

Then, a black patent leather envelope purse caught our eye ($2.99). At the counter, an expertly groomed clerk handed us a cup containing a die. "Roll it," she said. In an added thrill to what was already a thrilling experience, the number four came up. "You get 40% off." Can't beat that, kilt or no kilt.

* Inside Out is published Thursdays.

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