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Going Bare Could Get a Little Sticky

Don't want to reveal too much? Try tape.

March 03, 2000|VALLI HERMAN-COHEN | TIMES SENIOR FASHION WRITER

Now that very famous women are back to wearing scanty little nothings, they're being careful to cover their assets.

At Hollywood awards shows, you're square if you're not bare. Whether they are backless or strapless, awards-night dresses are playing peekaboo with sheer fabrics, wiggly fringe and very deeply plunging necklines.

The world watched in awe recently as Jennifer Lopez slithered onto the Grammy Awards stage in a mysteriously anchored plunging Versace dress. At the Golden Globe Awards, Courtney Love's John Galliano gown, with a diagonally fringed bodice and high-slashed skirt, did the shimmy and shake, everywhere but across her bust line.

Being careful to avoid overexposure, Love and Lopez employed a variety of tricks to keep eyes from prying too far.

"Courtney used a real unusual technique--she used surgical glue on the inside of the dress," said Love's stylist, Liz Cowan.

Inspiration struck while Love's makeup artist, Cathy Young, glued on a few false eyelashes for the Grammy show. Glue!

"She happened to have an old half-tube of surgical glue in her kit. It's pretty heavy-duty. They use it to glue on prostheses," Cowan said, who in seven years as a stylist has used tape but never glue for wayward garments.

"I didn't think there was enough Topstick in Los Angeles to keep that dress where it needed to be," Cowan said.

Topstick is a kind of double-sided, double-stick toupee tape. It sells for about $2.75 for a box of 50 1-by-3-inch strips at beauty supply stores and costume shops such as Western Costume, where supply shop manager Jeff Marks says he sells more Topstick than anything else in the store. He buys 1,000-box packs at a time and sells it to wardrobe stylists who secure clothes, not rugs.

Despite widespread conjecture, Lopez skipped the sticky stuff. Brave girl. Lucky girl.

"There is no tailoring in the world that was going to keep it from showing a nipple," Cowan said.

Lopez's tailor, Amy Brownson, insists that "it was just a really well-fitted dress. We just did some minor alterations to make it fit a little snugger," she said. (If Lopez secretly taped herself, Brownson didn't see it.) The long-sleeve dress with a below-the-waist plunge had a secret that made it stay put: built-in hot pants that acted as an anchor point. The dress was essentially a bodysuit with an attached skirt.

Deep necklines can be somewhat controlled with bodysuits or construction that attaches the blouse to a waistline or hip line, said designer Carmen Marc Valvo, who recently came to Los Angeles to fit actresses for Oscar night frocks. He sometimes cuts his blouses long to cover the hips so that they can be tucked into a tight waistband, effectively anchoring the top.

Donatella Versace, who designed Lopez's dress, took the anchor concept a step further by weighting the bottom of the plunge with a heavy brooch and building the hot pants into the dress.

But where engineering fails, a little bit of sticky stuff succeeds. Fashion stylists keep a bag of tricks handy for securing fly-away straps, hems and, yes, even plunging necklines. Cowan sometimes runs elastic along the edge of an opening (such as an armhole) to help create grip.

While tape and glue can help solve one problem, they create another. Tape can, shall we say, irritate tender skin. And surgical glue comes off only with spirit gum or lots of heat, said Cowan, who didn't send Love home with a bottle of remover: "I think Courtney just took a long hot shower."

Valli Herman-Cohen can be reached by e-mail at valli.herman-cohen@latimes.com.

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