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{ALL THE RAGE}

Spellbinding

Take a cue from Hitchcock's leading ladies for an elegant look this fall. But there's more to it than pencil skirts and crisp red lipstick.

September 16, 2007|Monica Corcoran | Times Staff Writer

When it came to cultivating a signature look for characters, no director was more of a style Svengali than Alfred Hitchcock. His cool, elegant leading ladies were tall glasses of mercury -- gorgeous, fluid and, in many cases, toxic. This fall, the fitted and sophisticated silhouette has replaced the diaphanous shapeless shift, with pencil skirts and knit suits leading the pack. Herewith, a primer on how to emulate the classic style and mannerisms of a Hitchcock darling.

Blonds have more breakdowns. Hitchcock's favorite coif was a tight, coiled-up do in a shade of brut Champagne. Typically, those severe buns would unravel as the character encountered obstacles such as dementia, amnesia or a savage attack by crows.

Precision pays. Most of his heroines cut a silhouette as sharp as an X-Acto knife. The pencil skirt, cropped jacket and slim-cut suit were Hitchcock staples. Nearly every designer has a pencil skirt this season, in lengths that halt just above or below the knee. (Above-the-knee cut is almost always more flattering.)

When in doubt, stare. On the set of "North by Northwest," Hitchcock told Eva Marie Saint: "One, lower your voice. Two, don't use your hands. And three, look directly into Cary Grant's eyes at all times."

A waist is a terrible thing to waste. The cinched, skinny leather belt in a vivid shade (see Miu Miu's version in traffic-stopping cerise; Net-a-porter.com, $195) will contrast well with fall's neutral palette.

Hitchcock muse Grace Kelly had a thing for white kid gloves. You should opt for the more dramatic, opera-length style popular this season, but avoid the trendy finger-less version. My favorite glove purveyor, Sermoneta of Rome (Sermonetagloves.com), offers every imaginable hue in varying styles.

Even the classics can be statement pieces. In "Vertigo," Kim Novak's white coat falsely signaled innocence and vulnerability, while contrasting smartly with the backdrop of redwoods. Get the look with the Marc by Marc Jacobs vintage-inspired wool twill coat with an asymmetrical collar, (Saks.com, $628).

Never underestimate the appeal of a frilly peignoir. The quintessential Hitch gal always had the right lingerie for any occasion. The sheer black Blanche robe, edged in lace, by Cosabella ($168) is a sexed-up Grace Kelly staple.

Every woman should be able to scream like a teakettle and run in high heels. Christian Louboutin's classic stacked patent pumps (Barneys.com, $560) in beige create the perfect long leg and are stable enough for hasty exits.

An oversized, bulky satchel had no place in a Hitchcock film. The slender, elegant clutch -- carried under the arm like a dachshund -- was the purse of choice.

A swath of red lipstick, and nothing more. Hitchcock women never over-accentuated their features. This fall, the crisp, crimson kiss of lipstick has replaced the glossy pout. Pick a color that will leave a dramatic lip print.

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Read Monica Corcoran's daily blog, All the Rage, at latimes.com/image

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