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And to Each His (or Her) Own

February 01, 1996|BETTY GOODWIN

The series: "NewsRadio" (NBC, Sundays, 8:30 p.m.)

The setup: Life and times of the employees of fictional WNYX radio station in New York City.

The costume supervisor: LuEllyn Harper, making her series debut.

The look: This season (its second), the WNYX group hit its fashion stride. The refreshingly adventurous ensemble includes the Ted Baxter-like egotist Bill (Phil Hartman), a semi-dashing guy who pairs high notched-collar vests with loosely cut suits. Dave (Dave Foley) is maddeningly dull in three-button suits and muted ties that look like they were borrowed from his congressman. Matthew (Andy Dick, pictured) is a geek role model in strange patterned cardigans ("not blatant argyle, I buy vintage argyle," Harper says). And producer/newswriter Lisa (Maura Tierney) is very Ann Taylor in her classic young professional wardrobe of dark, soft suits worn with short skirts and tights, full pants with a neat sweater or lace blouse and touches of delicate jewelry.

Hit: The station's fashion heroine is the flame-haired Beth (Vicki Lewis, pictured). She may play the standard kooky sidekick, but blessedly steers more to a downtown style than to what Harper calls the "bright, cheery, hey I'm in a sitcom" look. Lewis, who participates in choosing her character's clothes, says, "LuEllyn and I ask ourselves, 'Would anyone else wear this?' and if the answer is no, we say, 'Perfect.' " Lewis sneaks in heavy doses of beloved black, a shade practically verboten on TV. Unpredictable and daring, Beth's mishmashes of young design labels might include a black-and-white blazer with repeating Mona Lisa images (Bisou-Bisou) worn over black tights and lace-up boots one week, a black satin mini cheongsam the next, and an ankle-length black mesh dress (Vivienne Tam) the next.

You should know: "I sort of cast people similar to their characters so they can bring a lot of themselves to the show," explains creator/executive producer Paul Simms. "None of the actors are wearing things they themselves don't like." In Lewis' case, her off-camera look doesn't really sound close, being heavy on Ann Demeulemeester's black widelegged sweat pants, long black duster coats and white linen blouses. "People call me Mrs. Johnny Cash," she says. But there are "little things" the actress and her more flamboyant character have in common. Both refuse to wear pastels. And Lewis likes to wear her sleeves long. "I like them right around my knuckles," she says. "LuEllyn likes them where they're supposed to be, where your wrist breaks. I win on that." Lewis has also come to love Beth's combat boots. "I started wearing them in real life. Before, cowboy boots were my life."

Trivia: Fit is crucial. Lewis and Khandi Alexander, who plays Catherine Duke, are both barely size 2s, and Tierney is a size 4. Tiny bodies need defining, Harper believes. Most garments are nipped in through the torso and waist, including sweaters. "Practically everything they wear is altered," Harper says.

Sources: Beth's clothes are from Rampage and Fred Segal. "She has a Gaultier jacket, but I got it on sale, and I just found a Richard Tyler jacket for her on sale at Nordstrom in South Coast Plaza. It was $1,700 and I got it for less than $400," Harper says. Lisa's clothes are mostly from Barneys New York in Beverly Hills. Dave's suits are from Hugo Boss, Donna Karan and Bullock's private label; Bill's suits are Hugo Boss and Banana Republic with some vintage vests and some Zegna vests.

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