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The Wet Look

SCREEN STYLE / FASHION

August 03, 1995|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "Waterworld"

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The Setup: Hundred of years in the future, the ice caps have melted, leaving the Mariner (Kevin Costner) to exist on boats and man-made atolls while searching for land.

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The Costume Designer: John Bloomfield, whose credits include "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Conan the Barbarian," "A Man for All Seasons" and "Christopher Columbus."

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The Look: An inspired amalgamation of aquatic wear and doomsday deconstructivism. Since desperate times call for big-time scrounging, Bloomfield concocts a fashion world with nary a garment made of cotton, wool or any other recognizable material. Instead, the mainstays are the tanned skins of black tuna, sea bass, salmon and mahi-mahi, with a little seal intestine thrown in for that extra something. Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) sports a slinky bodice and skirt made of faux intestine--actually dyed organza treated with plastic--but her most glamorous fish look is a molded leather bustier (OK, so maybe one cow made it through the deluge) worn over a gossamer knit sheath resembling lacy seaweed.

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Hit: The detritus of civilization surfaces on the 3,000-odd costumes--80% of them custom-made, according to costume foreman Greg Mowry. Such embellishments as bits and pieces of empty bleach bottles, bottle caps and plastic six-pack holders offer a sly commentary, perhaps, on the world's polluted oceans. Rough strings--the same string found in a hardware store, though hand-dyed--hold everything together and reinforce the characters' piecemeal existence. As Bloomfield explains, "The structure of the society was very medieval, so I constructed the clothes in a medieval way. Instead of looking forward 500 years, I looked back 500 years."

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Quoted: "We were in unknown territory. I sat there with an empty drawing board and the script and thought, what might have been available to them and what would last? And it was fish skins," Bloomfield said. A catalogue from a 1992 exhibit at the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, "Russian America: The Forgotten Frontier," gave him the idea for using seal intestines.

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You Should Know: Tanned fish skins of all varieties came from a manufacturer of desk-top accessories and briefcases in Florida.

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Sources: Costumes were made during a one-year period at the production's costume shops in Los Angeles, Hawaii and the City of Commerce.

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