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Object of 'Affection': Avoid the Rachel Look

April 23, 1998|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Movie: "The Object of My Affection."

The Setup: A straight New York woman, Nina Borowsky (Jennifer Aniston), falls in love with a gay New York man, George Hanson (Paul Rudd), and wants to raise her baby with him.

The Costume Designer: John Dunn, who designed the costumes for "Basquiat" and "Mr. Wonderful," and co-designed the costumes for "Casino."

What the Look Isn't: "Rachel," expensive or black. Dunn and Aniston agreed that in order to give Nina a chance to be her own person, the actress' "Friends" alter ego had to be avoided at all costs. That meant circumventing anything sleek and sexy and the Prada-Gucci silhouette of the moment. As for prices, Nina doesn't wear anything expensive because she's a social worker. And she doesn't wear black (except for one, all-purpose, "basic black" cocktail dress), because she isn't meant to be a typical New Yorker.

What the Look Is: Feminine, adorable and hard to duplicate. All mixed together are cute skirts, including a knee-length, orange floral pleated design; great cardigans, including a green one with pearl beads along the border; good-looking dresses, such as a figure-enhancing, green polka-dot model; and feminine platform pumps. The wardrobe is equal doses of brightly colored vintage finds; contemporary pieces, many from unknown designers; and assorted items borrowed from both the assistant costume designer's closet and Aniston's (the holey men's Levi's).

The Shopping Trip: A "closet" of 30 pieces was assembled, from which Nina would be dressed. To create it, Dunn and his assistant spent a month shopping in New York. They combed sale racks at department stores, such as Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue, because markdowns are all Nina would have been able to afford, and found unusual items like the polka-dot dress (Nicole Miller) and a tropical-print miniskirt (Isaac Mizrahi). "They're pieces that people don't know how to work with," Dunn said. They prowled through small shops from the Lower East Side to TriBeCa, through SoHo and the West Village. They hit their favorite used-clothing shops, including What Comes Around Goes Around, and Darrow. In all, they hauled back about 125 pieces, not including vintage platform shoes. Aniston tried on each garment, then each was cataloged with a photograph and then the final choices were made.

The Maternity Challenge: Dressing cute while pregnant is a challenge in itself. But Dunn wanted Nina to do so realistically, which meant on a budget. For as long as possible, she wears clothes from her pre-pregnant state, including the ubiquitous denim overalls and a few expansive dresses. Indeed, she wears only three new maternity dresses--two custom-made floral dresses modeled after Betsey Johnson designs and a long, sleeveless, embroidered rayon dress she wears to a wedding. In its original state from Pea in the Pod, the dress was white. Dunn dyed it a soft blue.

Quoted: "She has an almost flawless body. I've never worked with an actress who needed fewer adjustments to draw the eye away from imperfections," Dunn said of Aniston's size 4-to-6 body.

Good Hair Day: Decidedly un-Rachel, Nina's pretty cascades of waves look as if she stepped out of a shower and air-dried. That's practically what happened. With her "Friends" long, layered cut still in place ("We couldn't cut her hair," said key hairdresser Angel DeAngelis), Aniston's natural wave is the main feature. Applying L'Anza Rebalance Leave In Conditioner on wet hair, DeAngelis then used a blow-dryer and only her hands to scrunch the hair. On humid days, she added Kiehl's High Gloss Oil. When the hair is worn up, DeAngelis quickly twisted it into place with big claw clips or long hairpins.

Trivia: Aniston took home her favorite piece from the movie--a brown, fitted, hip-length suede jacket from BCBG.

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