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SCREEN STYLE / FASHION

Lasting Style That's All Too Reel

August 17, 1995|BETTY GOODWIN

The Documentary: "The Hollywood Fashion Machine" (American Movie Classics, Tuesday at 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.)

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The Costume Designers: Travis Banton, Gilbert Adrian (see related story, Page E3), Jean Louis, Edith Head, Hubert de Givenchy, Theadora Van Runkle and others.

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The Setup: Designers and other fashion authorities explore how movies have influenced what we mortals wear, from the '30s to the present. Elizabeth Taylor's white lilac-embellished strapless gown from "A Place in the Sun" (designed by Head), for example, became the prom dress rage of 1951.

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Hit: Most delicious are revelations of how the great movie designers created fashion trademarks for the stars. And there is trivia galore, including two different experts expounding upon the physics of Rita Hayworth's famously sexy "Put the Blame on Mame" bustier gown in "Gilda," which was engineered to conceal a post-pregnancy tummy.

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Miss: Because of legal snags involving the use of some film footage, several of history's principal style-setters get only passing mentions, including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, and Diane Keaton in "Annie Hall."

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On the Cutting Room Floor: Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe were forbidden by censors from jiggling during their "Two Little Girls from Little Rock" musical number in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," says "Machine" producer Marcia Ely. As a result, the actresses wore flesh-colored Danskin-like fabric inserted across their bust lines "to lock them in place."

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Scene Stealer: Head, eight-time Academy Award-winning costume designer, in a 1978 film clip admits to one of her secret weapons: "Of course, you know I lie a lot, in a way. You have to. A star comes in [and says], 'Don't I look lovely?' And I say, 'Ravishing!' I don't say, 'You really look a little lumpy,' "

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Quoted: During the making of "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) designer Van Runkle recalls running into Head while shopping for buttons in Beverly Hills. "She said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'It's the '30s and they're escaping from a bank robbery.' She said, 'Oh darling, do everything in chiffon. You'll have no problems.' "

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