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FASHION | SCREEN STYLE

Julia Wears the Pants in This Comedy

June 19, 1997|BETTY GOODWIN

The Movie: "My Best Friend's Wedding"

The Setup: On the weekend before her former beau's wedding, Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) vies for the groom (Dermot Mulroney), who has promised to marry Kimmy Wallace (Cameron Diaz).

The Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland, whose film credits include Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway," "Radio Days," "Mighty Aphrodite," "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Everyone Says I Love You."

The Challenge: How to make two equally gorgeous, contemporary women appear very different? Kurland clothes them true to their respective cultures, known in the business as dressing "in character." However, in this film we have a sophisticated New Yorker (Roberts) and a sophisticated Chicagoan (Diaz); their styles could vary about as much as the Calvin Klein departments at Saks and Neiman's.

But Roberts' food critic might as well have starred in a black-and-white movie (preferably one of the Katharine Hepburn vintage), given her wardrobe of grays and blacks (OK, navy too)--and pants, pants, pants. And Diaz's Kimmy likes color (bubble gum, orange, yellow), plaids, pearls, Hermes scarves--and dresses, dresses, dresses.

About Julia Roberts: Dressed in serviceable clothes--mannish shirts, loosely cut suits, jeans, vests, sweaters, T-shirts--she still looks every inch the movie queen. Kurland, who designed nearly all of her custom-made clothes, pulls this off in subtle ways. And yes, Hepburn served as the model of a strong woman who doesn't give a hoot about clothes.

"It's all very much to the body," Kurland explains. Her trousers are cut to rest on her hips, partly to reduce bulk and partly to show a little bit of flesh when she leans over.

"Julia has very, very long legs and one of the great abdomens of all times," he says, which made Levi's and shrunken T-shirts a wardrobe given. Suit fabrics in drapey wool blends also enhance Roberts' "majestic" form.

Trivia: With tuxedos, real bow ties in basic black rule. "It's an essential detail," Kurland says. "You know how they say all men look good in tuxedos? There's a reason why. You shouldn't start gunking them up with red bow ties and purple sashes."

The Grand Finale: In a departure from the '90s rage for simple column gowns, as worn recently by Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Kurland plumbed haute couture for ideas, particularly the gowns of Dior, Jacques Fath and Balenciaga.

The gown on screen has an off-the-shoulder bodice and sash made of silk peau de soie, an under-bodice and full skirt of beaded and pleated silk (supported with a full crinoline), and a cathedral train stitched from double-faced satin. Silk roses trail around the waist to the back. And on the brides's neck? A Victorian-style lavaliere of pearls and lavender sapphires.

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