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SCREEN STYLE

Very Merry Traditional

November 24, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Miracle on 34th Street."

The Setup: Kriss Kringle (Richard Attenborough), a department store Santa, swears he's the real thing, but Susan Walker (Mara Wilson, pictured) and her mom, Dorey (Elizabeth Perkins, pictured), are nonbelievers in this remake of the 1947 classic.

The Costume Designer: Kathy O'Rear, whose credits include the films "Quiz Show" and "A River Runs Through It" (with Bernie Pollack), and television's "Anything but Love."

The Look: In the original, little Natalie Wood sat on Santa's lap in a plaid coat. Now, Mara sits on Santa's lap in a plaid coat; in other scenes, she wears a hand-knit red sweater with kitties on the pockets and a snow-white flannel nightie with heart-shaped buttons. Why does she look so cute? Because these are feel-good but not-really-the-'90s costumes. The children I know wear only jeans, leggings, T-shirts and sport shoes, none of them plaid, and my niece wears sweat pants to bed.

Quoted: "When anyone thinks of Christmas, you think of traditional, old-fashioned images, and even though it's a modern film, that's the feeling we worked very hard to create," O'Rear says. "I live in New York, and little girls really do dress in a more classic, conservative style. But it was a little confusing to the Fox executives, because they're out in California."

You Should Know: If it looks as if Kringle's Santa uniform is several notches spiffier than that of other department store Santas, consider that his ruby velvet jacket was stitched with gold thread, trimmed in white fox and decorated with hand-carved buttons (each adorned with the name of a reindeer).

Trivia: To contribute to the traditional mood, not even extras were permitted to wear synthetic fabrics. "We also tried to avoid neons or anything too trendy," O'Rear says.

Inspiration: O'Rear researched Santa uniforms through the ages, starting with long capes over dressing gowns, but settled on the Santa costume immortalized in Cola-Cola's Christmas ads of the '30s and '40s--the prototype for modern Santa garb, she says.

Sources: Susan Walker's and Kringle's costumes were custom-made in New York, except for Kringle's Santa boots, which were made at Angels in London. Other Santa costumes were rented from Western Costume and Eaves Brooks Costumes in New York.

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