'Jungle Fever' costumer builds great wardrobe

July 03, 1991|By Jan Tuckwood | Jan Tuckwood,Cox News Service

Flipper Purify, the adulterous architect in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," may be the best-dressed man on film this summer.

He wears $600 Gianni Versace sweaters and $150 Isaac Mizrahi ties. He has a tiny earring in his left ear. And he makes the men on "thirty-something" look like fashion wimps.

Those guys Michael, Elliot and Gary inspired a new line of clothing, also called "thirtysomething," which is supposed to be in stores for fall. But if men want to steal some really creative wardrobe ideas, they should check out Flipper, played by Wesley Snipes.

"Flipper's clothes are a blend of artistry and technology like architecture, his profession. We wanted to reflect his artistic side in his clothes," said Ruth E. Carter, costume designer for "Jungle Fever."

Carter studied how New York architects dress before she developed Flipper's wardrobe. Most look conservative enough to transplant them directly to Wall Street," she said, "but they have a creative edge."

And Flipper is more creative than most.

Carter dressed him in vibrant colors he wears red shirts and vivid gold shirts to the office and bold patterns, particularly in his suspenders and bow ties. For a big business meeting, Flipper wears a glen plaid Giorgio Armani suit.

"You can't beat that," Carter says. (Armani was also the designer who made Richard Gere look so good in American Gigolo.)

Most of these clothes cost a fortune but not all.

Carter bought Flipper's clothes from designers' showrooms and from stores all over New York. One of her favorite pieces a bright purple Gianni Versace sweater that Flipper wears under a mustard-colored overcoat was bought at the Versace boutique in New York. A vivid teal jacket was bought off the rack at a store in SoHo. And though some of Flipper's ties cost more than $100, one was "just bought off the street," Carter says.

Isaac Mizrahi designed one of Flipper's most striking office ensembles: a rose-colored, striped shirt and tie of the same fabric, worn with suspenders and full, pleated pants. The shirt and tie cost approximately $350 together.

Expensive but not too much for Snipes, who loved the way the colorful clothes enhanced his own skin color.

When shooting ended, Carter said, "He bought everything."

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