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TV's Gen Xers: All on the Same Plain

June 11, 1998|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

TV teenagers and college grads — the ones for whom hitting the big-time TV law firms isn't even a remote concept--are hardly trendy. For these Generation X members, the mainstays of their wardrobes are (surprise!) jeans, khakis (always without pleats) and sneakers. But that's not to say the main characters on some of TV's prime-time and late-night shows aren't cool. They are unanimously laid-back, and there's always some vintage element thrown in. And even though the characters' comfort zones may look remarkably alike, their ever-changing labels are key to their hipness.

The Series: "Dawson's Creek" (the WB, Tuesdays at 9 p.m.)

The Setup: High-school drama set in fictional New England coastal town.

The Costume Designer: Alonzo V. Wilson ("American Gothic").

The Look: Clean-cut. These are not your basic teenage mall rats. Normal is the operative word. Characters look unthreatening and approachable, without the usual TV fashion affectations.

Quoted: "We don't want them to look like L.A. . . . One of my e-mail buddies said they were so glad to see a show without girls in low-cut tops, short skirts and chokers. [The networks] are pushing sexy all the time," says Wilson, who can be reached at prince1502@aol.com.

The Trousers: J. Crew plain-front chinos and loose-fit indigo and faded Levi's for Dawson (James Van Der Beek); plain- front, baggy Banana Republic khakis for Pacie (Joshua Jackson).

The Sneakers: Vans, Tommy Hilfiger.

Vintage Element: Pacie's '50s shirts.

The Standout: In every scene, Dawson wears a quirky silver-and-hematite necklace on a leather cord over T-shirts (J. Crew) and V-neck sweaters (Banana Republic). Van Der Beek's mother made the piece for him, and when he first met with Wilson, he said, "Hey, can I wear this?" "My only fear was we'd lose it," Wilson adds, "so after the pilot she made another one."

Trivia: On the show, Joey (Katie Holmes), a tomboy (she wore one skirt in the entire season), wears Levi's men's jeans and T-shirts, but in real life she's into clogs and weird retro things like "Superfly" '70s jackets with big collars, Wilson says.

The Series: "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" (ABC, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.)

The Setup: Comedy set in Boston about two guys--grad students who deliver pizza--and their female buddy (she's the one with a real job).

The Costume Designer: Julie Bennett Bloch ("House Rules").

The Look: Strictly sophomoric for the guys, who cling to old college garb--Henley shirts, frayed sports jerseys and even generic sports department T-shirts that read "football" or "hockey." The girl is often on the same sports wave, wearing Adidas shoes and running pants with hooded sweatshirts.

Quoted: "I don't put anything on screen that's not been sandpapered and washed with fabric softener. It's very important for everything to look like it's been in their closets for a long time," Bloch says. "The producers want them to look like real people in Boston."

The Trousers: Abercrombie & Fitch plain-front khakis, Gap jeans.

The Sneakers: Puma, Adidas.

Vintage Elements: Some of the sports jerseys, bowling shirts and rayon shirts worn by Berg (Ryan Reynolds); Sharon's (Traylor Howard) beaded and argyle cardigans.

Trend Watch: Sharon's subtle plays on the new "Indian vibe," as Bloch puts it, put together in inspired ways. She might wear an Eastern-style tie-dyed T-shirt with Army-green cargo pants and rhinestone barrettes in her hair, or pair a Hindu T-shirt with an embroidered cardigan and beaded headband.

The Series: "Austin Stories" (MTV, Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m.)

The Setup: Comedy set in Austin, Texas, about two guys in their 20s--your basic slackers--and their female buddy (she's the one with a real job).

The Costume Designer: Melanie Armstrong ("Suburbia").

The Look: No designer anything. Actors play themselves and wear what they wear in real life, but beefed up. As Armstrong explained, "Chip (Pope) and Laura (House) each had about 10 things to wear, so we kind of expanded on it. Howard (Kremer) is more into his clothes."

Quoted: "It's not about New York. I'm an Austin native, and I wanted to convey the feel of what Austin actually is. It's an old hippie town, very laid-back. There are really good thrift stores here," Armstrong says.

The Trousers: Gap khakis; 26 Red and Arizona jeans.

The Sneakers: Converse, Vans, Adidas.

Vintage Elements: Kremer is so seriously into old stuff that he makes "Seinfeld's" Kramer, his sound-alike predecessor, look as if he was dressed by Saks Fifth Avenue. He has a wardrobe of polyester shirts, circa the '60s and '70s, from local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, as well as Blue Velvet and Hog Wild, two of Austin's finest vintage clothing shops.

"The most we paid for any of his shirts was $23," Armstrong says. On Kremer's feet are old Dean Martin-esque loafers, and his cheap aluminum sunglasses are from the Elvis era.

Triumph: Chip's weird logo T-shirts, which only Austinites can truly appreciate. One, for instance, reads "Spoon" (a local band) and another says "Lockhart" (a small town outside Austin).

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