April 2001
Film Duds (Debut) : Film and Fashion

by Kellye Whitney (Chicago)

Film Duds (Debut) : Film and Fashion

I consider myself an instinctive style-manager. Someone who, perhaps because of a quirky gene, loves clothes, shopping, and thinks celebrity photos are only worth looking at when the captions include designer names. "Film Duds" is a testament to my love of film and fashion. This column is meant to be humorous commentary on the ever-changing and frequently wild relationship between clothes and movies, celebrities and designers. Case in point, the 73rd Annual Academy Award show. Yes, it's a star bright collection of top o' the line acting talent, all vying to cement careers, reap the admiration of their peers, and take home a bald-headed gold statuette named Oscar. But where would the Oscars be without Versace, Badgley Mischka (who outdid themselves on La Halle's lavender gown this year) and Valentino? The red carpet, the preening and the rhythmic pop of flashbulbs are as much a part of the show as the nominations. Fashion and film are intrinsically intertwined. You'll see.

California dreamin'

Man. Man. Man. How many times can a sister get her heart broke before she starts shootin' up your crib with a wedding gown on? Screen Gems latest release "The Brothers," starring Morris Chestnut (Jackson), D.L. Hughley (Derrick), Shemar Moore (Terry), and Bill Bellamy (Brian) portrays a group of urban professionals who are close friends, suavely attired, and hopelessly relationship-challenged.

Costume Designer Debrae K. Little, whose credits include "Down to Earth" and TV's "Smart Guy," experimented with lots of different colors and textures to create each brother's personal style. The fellas were immaculately turned out in almost every scene. The only time they were even remotely casual was on the basketball court. This was also one of the few times I saw the color black, and even then, rippling muscles and snazzy Adidas logos offered ample decoration. For the sisters there were patchy little crocheted tops, a red pleather off-the-shoulder dress, flower patterns, animal prints, and even a few rhinestones.

Off-beat color combinations were popular too, particularly in the men's suits. We saw dark on light, light on light, lots of pastel ties, and rough and smooth fabrics together like Clifton Powell (Jackson's daddy) in a thickly woven yellow jacket with a true-blue cotton button-down. The ultimate color scheme came at the end of the film with the Smith family's coordinating baby blue and cream wedding outfits. They were the perfect morning suits to enhance father and son's chocolatey brown skin.

There were a few standout accessories. Marla Gibbs' (Derrick's mother) ruched knit hat was old and new, as was Gabrielle Union's (Denise) ethnic/homegirl flavor in a paisley head-kerchief and hot pants in an embossed orange-colored fabric. As Jenifer Lewis (Jackson's momma) waited for her ex-hubby to appear for an intimate dinner, she shielded her low-cut bosom with a luxurious, satiny-black stole. Little also used a lot of colorful costume jewelry to offset varied hues of smooth brown skin. The only serious fashion no-no came when Tatyana Ali (Jackson's baby sis) appeared at her brothers surprise party wearing a bright yellow top and pink and white patterned pants. Luckily we only saw those granny bottoms for a second and only from the back!

The Switch

"Heartbreakers" starring Sigourney Weaver (Max) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (Page) is a not so original con-artist flick with a new twist. Or should I say, a more fashionable take on the unique relationship between a man, a woman, and his money. More intriguing is the love/hate relationship between Page and Max. A mothers love is a serious thing. In this film it's strong enough to inspire a con... 'You won't be able to make it without me. You don't have the experience. You're going to fall in love with the first man you kiss with your eyes closed and you'll call it love.' And mom was right. Lucky for Page, Jason Lee (Jack) was a good guy.

There were some hilarious scenes with veteran actors Ray Liotta (Dean) and Gene Hackman. As tobacco millionaire William B. Tensy, Hackman oozed smoke from every pore, and smiled angelically to display tar blackened teeth and a bibulous red nose. The exaggerated make-up was the perfect foil for Tensy's moneyed gear. Elegantly tailored suits in royal blue with a satin coral-patterned tie, a tan argyle golf vest and matching knee pants, and the piece de resistance, sock suspenders!

But when the warm Palm Beach sun shone on Page and Max, it was all about the accessories! Cute little animal print bags, fringed shawls, sleek silver flip phones and past-the-elbow gloves. But the most eye-catching accessories of all came naturally. After all, there's nothing like a little T & A to get, and keep, a man's attention. Costume Designers Ann Roth and Gary Jones collaborated to dress Sigourney as a Russian vixen one minute, gangster moll the next.

But the young scream queen, Ms. Hewitt if you're nasty, was all about the mini. If you doubted they were coming back in style, she put theory to rest. Titty controversy aside, Jennifer worked each dress like a 9 to 5 gig. Barely there slip dresses with Madonna-esque underwear peeking out of low-cut necklines. See through hot pants with thongs and bandaid tops. Four-inch plus heels with peek-a-boo toes and sexy straps, all lovingly following every voluptuous curve. It was like the feminine mystique explained without words, evolution in one film frame. She was something. The words 'death defying gravity' come to mind. But without the attitude, without the switch? The outfits would have been worthless. The switch made everything come together seamlessly. That seductive roll of the hips can mean absolutely everything to the right dress.

Sometimes being undressed is the best outfit of all

There's something about a man in a well-tailored suit. There's something even more appealing about a man without one! Costume Designer Jennifer Bryan had to do next to nothing to make the male cast of "Exit Wounds" look good. Many of the scenes took place inside a police locker room or gym so there was a veritable feast of firm, muscular flesh to ogle, and that's one of the best outfits a brother can wear!

DMX (Latrell Walker) strode purposefully around the screen in his trademark white t-shirt, black leather and requisite puffy coat. He also filled out a super soft gray turtleneck sweater well. But the show stopper came when he put on a wine-colored two-piece suit with a deep blue button down shirt. Director Andrzej Bartkowiak knew what he was doing. He made that scene one of DMX's best, lovingly following the lines of his body as he adjusted his lapels and straightened his jacket.

Poor Steven Seagal got the short stick in this flick. It was classic, even stereotypical Seagal action for the most part. Seagal's wardrobe was as uninspired as his acting, with lots of dark colors and clunky black cop shoes. But once the twist came down and DMX revealed himself as a good guy, a savvy businessman, and an all around concerned citizen, I was hooked. It made me sad, thinking about all that talent, all that dark brown skin under those jazzy clothes, and how he seems determined to act a complete fool when he's playing himself! Arthur Anderson and Isaiah Washington put in solid supporting roles. Anderson proved a good point. Even big brothers can look good in a suit. It's all in the attitude, and his pink and black geometric print shirt under a black suit had plenty of it!

War is hell on fashion

A day in the life of a Russian sniper is not a glamorous thing. There are no clean clothes, there is barely clean water, and the only colors to be seen for miles are muddy green, muddy brown, and the dull or bright red shades of new and old blood.

"Enemy at the Gates" gave a graphic and realistic depiction of Russia's defense of Stalingrad during World War II. Snipers crawled through the bombed ruins of the city and picked off key officials at every opportunity, so it's no surprise the costumes weren't terribly flamboyant. The film did play up the military styles that are currently en vogue. But designers like Celine and Marc Jacobs cannot compete with the bright sky blue of Jude Law's eyes for sensory impact.

Law portrayed Russian sniper and national hero Vassili Zaitsev, whose celebrated gun was as much a part of his costume as the army green fatigues he wore throughout the movie. Costume Designer Janty Yates, whose credits include Hannibal and Oscar-winning Gladiator, did a fabulous job piecing bits of fabric together to show the wear and tear of the soldiers in the trenches and the pristine pomposity of Russia and Germany's top officials.

Veteran actor Ed Harris turned in a noteworthy performance as Major Konig, Zaitsev's arch-enemy and rival. He was also the only soldier who was clean for a good portion of the film, always a style plus!

Kellye can be found at the show eating sour patch kids and laughing at her favorite film stars. A native of Chicago, IL, Kellye graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a BA in news-editorial journalism. She has interviewed some of today's leading music artists including Destiny's Child, Eric Benet and Macy Gray. Her work has appeared in various magazines and newspapers as well as on several Internet websites. Kellye is excited to join the blackfilm.com family and hopes that readers enjoy her fashion savvy column "Film Duds."