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FASHION / SCREEN STYLE

Simply Simple

June 22, 1995|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Pocahontas."

The Setup: Walt Disney Pictures' animated retelling of the encounter between Native American Pocahontas and British soldier John Smith in early 17th-Century Virginia.

Her Look: No problem that the showstopping star, a hormonally blessed physical specimen if there ever was one, gets only one ensemble for her entire forest adventure. (That allotment is typical of most Disney animated characters.) Even Barbie would be green with envy over Pocahontas' sexy, fringed, deerskin mini-dress. Drawn to adhere to every curve, the one-shoulder frock is actually a total historical invention. In the Powhatan culture, females were bare-breasted, clothed in only apron-type skirts during warm-weather months, explains art director Michael Giaimo. Nevertheless, the filmmakers fought off the temptation to go flashy--unlike Southwest Native Americans with their elaborate feathers and jewels, Powhatans kept it simple. Her luscious turquoise necklace is another stretch since Powhatans had no access to turquoise. As for all that big, flowing hair and bare feet, they're meant to connect her to nature, but only the shoeless part is known to be authentic.

His Look: Strikingly blond, Smith's tresses instantly identify him as a stranger from a foreign land. "It's very difficult coloring a blond character without making him a surfer boy," Giaimo said.

Au Courant: The tattoo drawn on Pocahontas' arm--a sort of pointed arm band--isn't a Gen X affectation. Research showed that all kinds of body and face tattoos were distinctly Powhatan.

Quoted: "Pocahontas is actually less voluptuous than Jasmine (in "Aladdin")--with that extreme wasp waist--and more anatomically proportionally correct than Jasmine and Jessica Rabbit (in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"). She's less sex-pot, definitely," Giaimo said.

Trivia: Simplify, simplify, simplify is an animator's fashion credo, which explains why something like Chief Powhatan's cape, a replica of one entirely covered in raccoon tails found in Jamestown, Va., was something "no one was about to draw," said Jean Gillmore, who worked in visual development. It was reduced to a cape with four tails.

Inspiration: For the costumes of the Native Americans, the watercolors of John White, circa 1584, were the primary reference.

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