People Staff
December 11, 1989 12:00 PM

In the end, of course, fashion is ephemeral and style is indefinable. Fred Astaire was elegant in bow tie and tails; Mel Gibson is très chic in leather jacket and torn jeans. But standards—some standards—have to be maintained. Wealth can’t always buy taste; fame can beget fashion misfortune. This year we asked Batman costume designer Tommy Nutter, interior decorator Mario Buatta, country singer k.d. lang, Julie (Earth Girls Are Easy) Brown and Faith Ford, Murphy Brown‘s airhead nemesis, to do the thumbs-up and thumbs-down duties.

John Candy wins thumbs-up for his knit-wit. “He’s so cute,” says Julie Brown. “It’s like a dad’s sweater, which is, like, so appropriate for him.” But don’t pass the pasta, John. Mario Buatta thinks your physique needs work: “He looks too grandfatherly; I’d say one more chin-up and he’d look a lot better.”

Most of the judges left Sean Young with no way out. “Ten to one, she made this shirt herself,” says Julie Brown. “She’s the scariest woman in fashion.” Tommy Nutter, while asserting that Sean’s “knees don’t look too thrilling,” did like the outfit. “Lovely top,” he said. “Taffeta is beautiful.”

Who’s going to knock a classic like Jacqueline Onassis? Only k.d. lang. “She managed to get enough velvet off her old Elvis paintings to get a dress,” says k.d. But Tommy Nutter calls Jackie “the most stylish woman alive,” while Julie Brown crowns her “the hippest woman ever.”

Take your pick. Rod Stewart’s suit-and-tie combo is “a bad attempt at Op art,” says Nutter. It’s like “a drug addict’s nightmare,” says Ford. It’s “an optical effect so we won’t notice he hasn’t changed his hairdo in 18 years,” says Brown. And k.d. lang thinks he “has always dressed badly.”

Model Carol Alt scored big with Tommy Nutter. “She has the figure, the armpits,” he gushes. “I like the dress. It’s a nice, clinging number.” Julie Brown demurs: “Her breasts don’t really match.” And Buatta suggests, “This dress really shows that fashion designers hate women.”

Mick’s big bird, Jerry Hall, gets a plucking for this. But which breed is it the worst of? “She’s been with the roosters,” clucks Buatta. “A canary,” chirps Brown. Ford calls it “the cockatoo look.”

Kim Basinger just bought a whole town, so why couldn’t she buy a whole gown? “Is that a tattoo or is it her lingerie?” k.d. lang wonders. “I hope her knickers are clean,” says Tommy Nutter.

You have to remember that Kathleen Sullivan puts in a long day. Faith Ford and Mario Buatta both think she has her dress on backward. Julie Brown says, “This outfit frightens me.”

Carrie Hamilton, Carol Burnett’s daughter, stepped out to jeers. “Whatever she thinks she’s doing,” growls Buatta, “it’s wishful thinking.” Brown even objects to her jacket: “When is black leather going to stop being the uniform for hip?”

Geena Davis found that it’s not easy for an earth girl to dress to please the judges. Nutter calls her dress “very Debbie Reynolds, Doris Day, a shorter Annie Hall.” Buatta says it’s “good for Miss Porter’s.” Brown thinks the key might be accessories: “This dress needs a pitchfork.”

So L.A. Law‘s Susan Ruttan lost a few pounds, now they’re picking on the way she dresses. “What did she come as?” asks Nutter. “Those ruffles could prick your hand,” warns Buatta. “It should be hanging out on a branch,” says k.d.

Barbara Bush’s trademark pearls earn near-unanimous approval, but the official top gets mixed reviews. “She could have used a bit more shoulder,” says Nutter. Ford sighs. “The flowers, the pattern—it has to go.”

What’s a best-dressed list without a few royals, in this case Princess Di with sons Harry and Wills? Nutter liked everything, from Di’s outfit—”she’s got the legs for it”—to the boys’ matching looks. “It works—not too camp, not too theatrical. I’m sure it’s all her influence.”

Nutter gives Angela Lansbury’s look “10 out of 10.” Buatta calls her “a great lady who knows how to dress. She knows what to hide and what not to hide, and that’s what fashion is all about. She’s sexier than all the rest.”

Transcending the genre—indeed, all genres—Cher once again left the judges stunned. “I think it’s incredible,” says Brown, “that when you look at this picture, you realize this woman is a mother. I tried to imagine my mother doing this—and it doesn’t happen.”

Tommy Nutter describes Mel Gibson as “the all-American butch man,” adding, “All men wish we looked like that.” Ford has only one tip: “He needs to take his pants out of his boots.” Clothes? Who said anything about clothes? Asks Julie Brown, “Do you have any pictures of him naked?”

k.d. lang thinks Paula Abdul‘s little number “looks like a used paper wedding flower from Kleenex”—probably not a compliment. “Too cute,” decrees Brown. Mario Buatta has his own theory about the Abdul creation: “This used to be her ball gown, and she wore it to the prom, and her date took a machete to it.”

“This is one sad-looking Madonna,” says Buatta. “She’s a turnoff.” But k.d. lang finds the star-quality jogging outfit “functional, definitely functional,” and Tommy Nutter argues, “She can do whatever she likes. She’s a great stylist, an original.” No, says Faith Ford, “This is her Mike Tyson look.” Julie Brown thinks “she’s so hip that she has the nerve to dress like a housewife from the Valley. We love her for that.”

Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall—who could be hipper, right? “First rule,” says Nutter, “you never speak to a an wearing leather trousers.” Or leather anything, Brown amends: “It’s just more dead-animal clothing.”

Corey Feldman should get out more. “It’s the Michael Jackson look,” says Ford. “It was out four years ago.” Says Brown: “The more hardware you wear, the less personality you have.”

Michelle Pfeiffer’s look falls far short of glamour. “The bags are functional, the scarf’s keeping her warm,” says Nutter. “But when you’ve got the looks and the figure, you can get away with murder.” Right, agrees Brown: “I hate her.”

Britt Ekland, husband, former drummer Jim McDonnell, and son T.J. are “just a good American nuclear family” to k.d. lang. Of course, they really are Anglo-Swedish.

Buatta thinks Rob Lowe, star of screen and videotape, was “lucky he got away with his pants on.” Brown suggests the outfit shows a practical streak: “We’ve seen him naked. He doesn’t have to work on his clothes anymore.”

With Marlon Brando, it’s not the suit, it’s the suet. “If I gained weight like that, that’s all you’d see me wearing too,” says Ford. But Brown argues, “He’s so hip, it doesn’t matter what he wears, even if it is a parachute.” Tommy Nutter thinks they have “OD’d on the fake fur” and wonders about the stains on Jim’s jeans. Buatta applauds the fabulous fakes but cautions: “His and her outfits are too much.”

Roseanne Barr’s outfit is no award winner. “Ohmigosh, the Mr. T look,” says Ford. “Too much jewelry, and the shoes are a disaster,” seconds Buatta. “Is that her belly button?” k.d. wants to know. “These are all deliberate photographs, aren’t they?” asks Nutter, tactfully adding, “She looks very happy.”

Nobody came to the defense of Amy Irving’s cowgirl-casual attire. “It’s a disaster,” says Nutter. “The boots really clinch it. And the bucket bag.” “She’s dressed like my grandma,” says Brown. “Pathetic!” declares Buatta. “I am so bored with this I-just-got-out-of-bed-and-put-on-anything-I-wanted look.” Ford offers a backhanded compliment: “It looks comfy.”

Liza Minnelli’s see-through skirt split the panel. “She’s a little old for this sort of thing,” meows Ford. “She’s beautiful, she just forgot to put her skirt on,” k.d. explains. “She has great legs, so why not show them off?” Nutter defends.

Faith Ford has one major piece of fashion advice for Mick Jagger: “Untuck those pants! It’s not manly.” Nutter, focusing on the top, says, “I’m not keen on the jacket. But it’s very Mick. He’s got great style.” Besides, adds Brown, “He’s just so cool.”

Nutter thinks Pia Zadora’s hair “looks like she’s had a shock.” Ford suspects Kady has better fashion sense: “She’s probably saying, ‘Mommy, do we have to dress alike again?’ ” On the other hand, says Brown, “Looks like Kady designed them.”

Mario Buatta says he’s tired of Sean Penn’s macho look. Julie Brown calls it “classically, boringly hip: no-risk clothing.” But Ford says she sees “nothing offensive”—and Nutter agrees: “It’s nice that he’s gotten away from the ubiquitous double-breasted suit.”

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