The fashion industry has its own way of anointing the best dressed among the wealthy and socially prominent, but PEOPLE prefers to consider those who really set the trends—the luminaries in movies, TV, music, politics and the arts. The panel for our fourth annual roundup of best (and worst) dressed—fashion designers Mary McFadden, John Weitz, Betsey Johnson, model-agency head Nina Blanchard, actresses Jill St. John and Brooke Shields, The Language of Clothes author Alison Lurie, rock star Rick James and writer Rex Reed—chose this year’s dazzlers and disasters.
Three for the Hall of Fame
This year PEOPLE inducts three very visible (and disparate) style setters into its Fashion Hall of Fame. Diana, Princess of Wales, 22, is already a fashion icon. “She has an incredible natural flair,” says McFadden. “Her clothing is extremely detailed, but it works.” At a price, of course. Wardrobing the size-8 Diana—an energetic shopper who fancies such British designers as David Sassoon—is believed to have put a $150,000 dent in the royal coffers.
Fidel Castro, 57, is, aptly, a trifle thriftier. He never seems to tire of his battle fatigues, and Fidel is “terribly bright to have stuck with them,” says Weitz, deadpan. “They give him an aura of perpetuity, and he’s set the style for every revolutionary who came afterward.” Not to mention armies of young Americans who just wanted to look like revolutionaries.
David Bowie, 36, is more of a chameleon. Over the years he’s been a brash London mod, an androgynous glitter-king and a bleached-blond New Wave dandy. These days he’s opting for the Gatsby look. St. John feels “Bowie is so elegant,” and Johnson adds: “He knows every fold in a piece of clothing and how his movements affect them. He’s the epitome of a debonair man.”
TV’s Top Sizzlers
On or off camera, Donna Mills, who plays Knots Landing‘s resident man-eater, Abby Cunningham, dresses like a vamp. Mills wiggles into eye-catching clothes that cling like an expensive second skin to her petite but voluptuous 5’4″ frame. She doesn’t blink at spending between $2,000 and $6,000 for beaded and strapless gowns by her favorite designers, Tracy Mills and Nolan Miller. “Hot,” says Rick James. “Very hot.” Rex Reed casts a dissenting vote. “She’s spent entirely too much time on Rodeo Drive.”
John Forsythe, 65, of Dynasty shares a taste in clothes similar to his prime-time alter ego, Blake Carrington. “I am an Eastern fellow,” says Forsythe, who favors conservative suits bought off the rack at Carroll & Company on Rodeo Drive and J. Press Inc. in New York. “I’m no cock-of-the-walk dandy.” Forsythe “exemplifies New York elegance,” applauds Lurie.
She wears only imports. Her shoes are Italian and French. At 4, Samantha is running high-fashion circles around her mother, Sally Struthers, who shops for her couture-conscious daughter at the best kiddy boutiques in Beverly Hills. “If she could, she would sleep in a ball gown,” sighs Sally.
Meanwhile, England’s future king, William, romps through obligatory photo sessions in the costliest crawlers London has to offer. On his better days, “Wills” sports rows of hand-smocking on those 100 percent cotton and pure silk suits. “How could he not be beautifully dressed?” asks Betsey Johnson. “I just hope in private this kid wears shirts and diapers.” Whatever he wears in private, Princeton coed Brooke Shields admits, “I’d love to baby-sit him anytime.”
Boy Oh Boy
This year’s shock-rock winner in the male and female categories: Boy George, 21, lead singer of England’s Culture Club. Boy (his real name is George O’Dowd) affects a sort of Hasidic transvestite look—broad-brimmed hats, plaited locks, long white smocks made from British designer Sue Clowes’ “hobo” print cottons, and plenty of rouge, lipstick and eye pencil applied by Boy himself. “I just sort of picked it up,” he giggles. Even fellow shock-rocker Rick James admits to being perplexed: “Lord have mercy on him.” Mum, however, has the last word. “George,” Mrs. O’Dowd recently said, “finally managed to convince me that clothes don’t make the man.”
In Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta performed some of his fanciest footwork in a vested white suit that inspired a legion of discomaniacal imitators. In Staying Alive, however, Travolta, 29, is most notable for what he doesn’t wear: In some of the dance sequences he displays little save a loincloth, leg warmers and a glistening set of muscles that he developed after five months of pumping iron. “I congratulate him,” says Weitz, “on his biceps.” Which is not to say Travolta clones can’t appropriate his look—Cartra, a West Coast company, is launching a line of Travolta-inspired dancewear, and Simon and Schuster has just signed the new hunk to a six-figure advance for a book on physical fitness.
Vacation‘s Christie Brinkley was just another pretty face until 1979, when she began lending her photogenic figure to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED’s annual swimsuit issue. Since then she’s served as the quintessential bod beautiful. This year she signed a lucrative agreement with Russ Togs, which will market Brinkley-label sportswear and (surprise) swimwear. On dry land Brinkley is partial to leather separates from Claude Montana and “anything fanciful and funny.” Says Nina Blanchard: “She can wear a silver minidress that would be trashy on anyone else and make it look classic.” Still, Travolta and Brinkley seem best dressed when they aren’t.
Late Night News Flash
Ted Koppel, 43-year-old anchor of ABC’s Nightline, outfits himself in the pinstripes and button-down shirts that have become the hallmark of the network news jockey. “I buy all my clothes off the rack at Britches of Georgetowne,” he says. “I like things that were in vogue in the ’50s.” Still, Koppel has his idiosyncrasies—namely, his “Howdy Doody” hairdo (as John Weitz calls it) and his showbiz gold bracelet. “Why the bracelet?” asks Lurie. “Is he saying, ‘I am an expensive item’?”
Connie Chung, anchor-woman of NBC News at Sunrise, admits to being a spendaholic. “If I don’t shop, I get the shakes,” she laughs. Trusted sources for her trademark tailored suits are Beverly Hills stores like Lina Lee and Ted Lapidus, where she binges at biannual sales (recently, a $598 jacket at Lapidus that had been slashed to $150). Connie, who is a hard-to-fit size 4-6, reports that she looks for a good fit and simple styling. “She looks extremely strong,” observes Johnson.”
Will success spoil Eddie (Trading Places) Murphy? Maybe not. But it sure is helping him spruce up his wardrobe. Ever since Saturday Night Live‘s wunderkind made his great leap into the movies, he has been indulging a not-so-secret passion for clothes and baubles like his $6,000 diamond watch. When the 22-year-old prince of hip threads is feeling sporty, he shrugs bare-chested into one of his pricey ($500 and up) leather jackets or whips on a red leather suit. “Lots of style,” purrs Nina Blanchard. “He has everything you need to look sexy.”
Ditto Jennifer Beals, the Yale sophomore who Flash-danced her way to stardom this year. When she let her gray sweatshirt drift off her shoulder in the movie, the hottest trend of the summer was launched. “That healthy body style is very hip fashion,” comments Betsey Johnson. This fall Beals, 19, is back in New Haven but no longer in Flashdance mufti. She has signed an exclusive contract with Puritan’s French designers Marithé and Francois Girbaud and from now on will turn up for class in their baggy jeans and stone-dyed denim shirts.
This year’s jazziest jocks are both on ice. Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretzky, 22, has adopted a neo-Brummell style that John Weitz deems “marvelous.” His workaday wardrobe runs to a $7,500 coyote coat and leather pants, while for nights on the town Wayne scores with a double-breasted custom-made tux. Gretzky loves puckish touches, too—bow ties are a favorite.
When she’s not on the ice, 1982 World figure-skating champion and Olympic hopeful Elaine Zayak, 18, can be spotted in the shopping malls near her home in Paramus, N.J. snapping up knickers and designer jeans. Elaine, who is a 1983 graduate of Paramus High School, confesses that she spends up to $350 per spree. Zayak’s flair for fashion extends to the rink, where she wears custom-made costumes (including a Mary McFadden) that cost $1,000 and up.
Before her mother’s death Princess Caroline’s style was more rumpled than royal. At various times paparazzi caught her in too-tight jeans and work shirts, tarty evening dresses and shiny spandex pants. Since assuming the mantle as Monaco’s official hostess, however, Caroline, 26, has shone in the role of royal clotheshorse. Her wardrobe includes elegant veiled hats, kid gloves, classic suits and ball gowns from Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. “She’s understated and extremely chic,” raves Rex Reed. “I think her mother had taste, and it rubbed off on her.” Mary McFadden’s rating of the fashionable new Caroline: “Triple A…now she looks just as pretty as her mother,” the designer says.
Ricky (Silver Spoons) Schroder ranks as a bona fide fopling in Betsey Johnson’s book. “I just love it when kids look like little adults,” she says, admiringly. Schroder, 13, likes to browse at Bloomingdale’s in New York and Joe Rudnick in Beverly Hills, searching for Ralph Lauren and Guess-brand threads in size 14. Sweatshirts from Heaven (a trendy Century City store) are a special favorite, and Little Lord Ricky cuts them off himself for a Flashdance feeling.
The only child of Bianca and Mick could hardly help being a precious dresser. The question is whether Jade Jagger, 12, will be more influenced by her father’s cock-of-the-walk look or her mother’s sexy elegance. It could go either way. “At the moment,” says Weitz, “Jade just dresses like a cute kid” in schoolgirl blazers and Nikes.
Mean Street Neat
With her penchant for shades, men’s caps and leather jackets, Yoko Ono, 50, dresses, says Alison Lurie, “like a terrorist. It’s a dark, threatening, sinister look.” Adds Jill St. John, “I think she’s definitely making a statement, and her statement is: ‘Go away.’ ”
Another celebrated” slouch, Richard Gere, pairs tattered T-shirts, worn Lacostes or leather jackets with blue jeans and the gaucho boots he bought in Brazil. Although his thrift-shop look is varied with an occasional piece from Giorgio Armani (who designed Richard’s American Gigolo gear), the overall effect, says Alison Lurie, is that of “a mechanic.” Brooke Shields predicts Gere has a real “opportunity to set a style. I wish he’d take the time to do it.”
Preppy Veep George Bush is “perfectly elegant, perfectly right” in Lurie’s estimation. Not an easy task, considering that Bush has traveled 375,600 miles since becoming Vice-President. “Politicians are like actors,” Weitz observes. “They’re on an eternal public appearance.” Bush, whose taste runs to $500 pin-striped suits, school ties and aviator glasses, has been spotted buying his Right Stuff at Arthur Adler, an ultra-prep clothier in downtown D.C. His latest watchbands come from Geoffrey Beene, whose offerings have one obvious advantage for the Veep: they are embossed with tiny gold GBs.
He dresses the part to perfection. As Queen Beatrix’s husband, the 57-year-old Prince Claus of the Netherlands looks every inch the royal consort in his beautifully tailored double-breasted suits. Apparently recovered from the depression that landed him last year in a Swiss psychiatric clinic, Claus showed up for the royal family’s annual photo session wearing a dark blue blazer with gold-plated anchor buttons. “Classic formal elegance,” observes Lurie. “Great style,” adds Nina Blanchard.
Meanwhile across the channel, Princess Michael of Kent, 38, has been turning nearly as many heads as her more famous cousin-in-law, Princess Di. Marie-Christine, married to the Queen’s cousin Prince Michael, cuts a wide swath through the London social scene. By night she fancies swirling ball gowns in silk and satin by the Emanuels. By day she turns up in exquisite suits by Hardy Amies and Bellville Sassoon. “Very chic,” raves Rex. “Classical,” says McFadden. “Give her five stars—the maximum.”
Yoda and E.T. have proved that, in box office terms at least, a unique personal style counts for more than beauty. This year filmmaker George Lucas banked on a villain to capture the imaginations of young moviegoers: Jabba the Hutt, The Return of the Jedi‘s 600-pound slobbering, slime-skinned blob of a baddie. “Jabba,” says Lurie, “calls up a lot of terrifying stereotypes—lizards, reptiles, the caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland.” Weitz approves of the hulking Hutt (“a magnificent presence,” he says), but Betsey Johnson declares, “Ugh—I’d take E.T. over him.”
Fashion Flops and Fizzles
Unlike Joan Rivers, we’ve resisted stating the obvious for three years. But this time, Liz, you’ve gone a bit too far. Big Bird feathers? That’s no improvement over your usual wardrobe of cowboy hats, tiaras and tent-size evening pajamas. “Taylor looks like the lead in La Cage aux Folles,” sniffs Reed. “She doesn’t know how to camouflage her body.” Weitz is more admiring. “She must say to herself, ‘This is me, it pleases me, screw you.’ ”
The A-Team‘s Mr. T, 31, is a similarly outstanding example of wretched excess. His Mandinka hairdo, combat boots, chest-baring vests and sweatpants belie the wealth of jewelry that adorns his 5’11½”, 219-pound frame. T’s trove includes 100 necklaces, seven earrings, 14 ankle chains and 10 rings—all together weighing in at 20 pounds and appraised at about $300,000. “This is something from outer space,” says Reed. Concurs Weitz: “A cartoon character.”
At 37, Linda Ronstadt still looks like a moppet marching around in her mother’s clothes. Her refugee-style head scarves, lace-up boots and see-through skirts strike a discordant note. “I don’t know,” wonders Lurie, “where she got this stuff.”
When tubby, toupeed Today show weathermugger Willard Scott, 49, isn’t dressed as a Midwestern floorwalker (complete with lapel carnation), he seems willing to try anything, even breezing through the forecast in a Carmen Miranda outfit—headdress, ruffled skirt and all. (The stunt was done on a dare: A viewer offered to donate $1,000 to the USO if Willard would appear as Carmen.) “He’s got the potential to be a real femme fatale,” Johnson deadpans. “He’s got a lot more daredevilishness than any other weatherman.”
One Day at a Time‘s Bonnie Franklin, 39, hates to shop—and it shows. Although some of her evening gowns are in the $5,000 range, they look as if they were designed for the star of a low-budget horror film. “She should never again speak to whoever is dressing her,” Lurie shudders. Asks Reed, “Why would anyone this young want to look like Princess Margaret?”