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Who, What, Wear--and How!

KTTV's Jillian Barberie and Lisa Joyner refuse to be slaves to navy suits and padded shoulders like their news hound counterparts. They're not afraid to be sexy and stylish on the set. After all, it is TV.

July 16, 1998|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION WRITER

Would something be gained if we didn't dress in a manner dictated by our professional roles? Individuality, perhaps? A more colorful, better-decorated work environment? Consider the television newswoman. Her wardrobe normally consists of mannish shirts, big-shouldered blazers and a glut of accessories. How proper, how corporate, how boring. And how out of touch with current style.

If anyone's bored at KTTV, clothes can't be blamed. The Fox network captured a young audience with soapy, splashy shows like "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Melrose Place," whose female characters dressed to thrill in wardrobes that owed more to Barbie than to Bill Blass.

And you can also turn on Channel 11 any weekday morning and see weatherwoman-resident wit Jillian Barberie and entertainment reporter Lisa Joyner looking like clever cousins of the babes from Fox's entertainment shows. Earlier this week, Barberie appeared in a clingy, animal-print wrap dress, Joyner in a snug camisole and matching cardigan. They've broken the unwritten code that says women in TV news can't look fashionable, adorable or sexy. Helmet hair, go home.

How dare they! What's going on at "Good Day L.A.," the Emmy-winning morning news show? Cleavage before you've had your coffee?

"Why not?" Joyner asks. "I'm saying, 'Wake up. Good morning.' I dress the way I dress when I'm not on the air. This is what I feel comfortable and attractive in. It's not shocking or daring or anything. It's just the clothes I like."

Both women have worked in other cities and held jobs that involved them more in hard news than the happy chat they do here. They have closets full of serious suits, (admittedly with skirts that rise to Ally McBealish heights). But the clothes the two 31-year-olds now favor run to slipdresses and cardigans, pedal pushers and sweater sets.

"We get to have fun with fashion because we're not reporting on death and destruction," Barberie says. "It's unfortunate, but for some reason people think I'm less credible if I'm dressed more casually."

"In a way, I understand it," Joyner says. "You don't want what you're wearing to be distracting and attract more attention than the news story you're telling."

Even though Barberie draws a distinction between the sort of loosey-goosey show she contributes to and serious news, she bridles at the regimentation the news business imposes on its women.

"This is how we dress in our lives," Barberie says. "This is just who we are."

Viewers frequently comment.

"Most of the faxes we get are positive, but I don't mind if someone objects to what I wear," Barberie says. "I never want to please everybody all the time, or I'd be vanilla."

Here are factoids for fans of the "Good Day L.A." style parade Joyner and Barberie present: They don't get a clothing allowance from the station or have a costumer who advises them. Their favorite store is Bloomingdale's. Barberie's first choice designers are Betsey Johnson, Vivienne Tam and a trio of L.A.-based labels--BCBG by Max Azria, William B and Laundry by Shelli Segal. A believer in buying in multiples, she has five Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dresses. Joyner pays less attention to labels but gravitates to anything by Calvin Klein. They both wear size 2 or 4, are admitted fashion junkies and think there's no such thing as too many shoes.

White is an on-camera no-no, since it causes an audible buzz, and busy prints give cameramen fits. The only other taboo is bare arms.

"I've never done that, and I don't think I ever will," Barberie says. "There's just a naked factor--too much skin showing."

They don't plan their outfits ahead or consult with each other. Each woman grabs whatever suits her mood when she stumbles into her closet at dawn.

When women first gained a seat at anchor desks, they tried not to stand out. They couldn't lower their voices, but they could try to dress like their male co-workers, and did. Joyner and Barberie aren't afraid to be women; nor do they feel compelled to hide their stunning figures.

"I am a woman," Barberie says. "Should I pretend that I'm a man and put on a suit and tie? That's ridiculous. Aren't we past the point where a woman has to hide her femininity? I mean, I'm a woman, and of course I have breasts. It would be a problem if I didn't. Does that mean I can't deliver a story? I'd hope that we're a little bit beyond that."

Clothes aren't inherently sexy or dull. It's the combination of clothing plus person that projects an image. Joyner and Barberie have a handle on theirs. And they're having too much fun to let any outdated rule book cramp their style.

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