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FASHION / SCREEN STYLE

BY DESIGN : Feathers, Bugle Beads and . . . Tweed?

October 27, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Bullets Over Broadway."

The Setup: Woody Allen's comic tale of a struggling playwright, David Shayne (John Cusack), and his attempt to get his work produced with funny money in late '20s New York. Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly), a gangster's girl, and fading star Helen Sinclair (Dianne Wiest) have the top roles.

The Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland, doing his 13th Woody Allen feature. Others include "Manhattan Murder Mystery," "Husbands and Wives," "Broadway Danny Rose," "Radio Days" and "Alice."

The Look: Exuberant and luxurious, featuring the endangered species of the dress-up world: ostrich feathers and bugle beads. Such costumes enliven fashionable Helen Sinclair, who boasts a dreamy wardrobe of drop-waist dresses, feather-trimmed cloches, embroidered China silk lounging pajamas plus two silver fox stoles (worn simultaneously), fur-collar coats and a monkey-fur muff.

Olive Neal, who proves that money can't buy good taste, is blessedly garish in outfits of flaming red, pink and orange. Her ostrich-feather-trimmed robes are absolute scene-stealers.

David Shayne, in his relentless diet of tweed Norfolk jackets and spectacles, amazingly looks like a prewar version of the filmmaker.

Triumph: Keep an eye out for the chorus girls in Chinese costumes with pagoda hats and short, pagoda-shaped skirts with sequined balls. Their ode to New York City features short dresses with the skyline of Manhattan rendered in bugle beads.

Trivia: Warner Purcell (Jim Broadbent), who expands by about 100 pounds during play rehearsals, was enlarged in three stages. The first involved belting a pad around his waist. The second added a padded T-shirt-style garment made of cotton batting and grain (so the rolls sag properly) that zips up the back. The third required a complete "fat suit," featuring padded torso plus limbs, also made of batting and grain. Finally, eight suits were made to fit the various stages.

You Should Know: Although it's never visible, the actresses wear period underwear--bandeau bras, garters, stockings, teddies and camisoles. "I think the actresses like it very much," Kurland says. "It helps them get into character."

Research: The photograph collection at the Lincoln Center branch of the New York City Public Library.

Sources: Principals' clothes were either vintage or custom-made at Barbara Matera Limited, Miracle Studio, Pierre of Paris and Woody Shelp (for hats) in New York. Glasses are from Robert Marc Optician in New York. Helen Sinclair's furs were both vintage (including the muff) and new, custom-made at Ben Kahn.

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