Thanks to the movie 'Mobsters,'slick bad-guy attire is roaring back


August 15, 1991|By Knight-Ridder News Service

From the silver screen, some fashion wisdom to live by: Don't dress "like a schmuck."

In the new testosterone-in-tweeds epic "Mobsters," gangster rookie Christian Slater, already quite rakish in tab-collared shirts and baggy pants, learns this valuable lesson from shadowy mobster F. Murray Abraham.

Mr. Abraham tells Mr. Slater what America is really all about -- money -- and says Mr. Slater will never make it big.


"Because you dress like a schmuck," Mr. Abraham says, playing Mr. Blackwell to Mr. Slater's Princess Anne. His insult sets into motion a delightful sequence in which Mr. Slater and the rest of his hunkster hoodlum gang change their image, emerging as slick, well-groomed, top-coated, fedora-clad, full-scale nogoodniks.

We loved it. And we predict this entertaining flick could finally spark the resurgence of gangster chic that neither "Goodfellas" nor "Godfather III" was able to inspire.

Yes, we know those sunflower Dick Tracy trench coats died on the vine last year, but this is different. We bet menswear designers already are counting the loot to be made from Chesterfield coats, three-piece tweed suits with triple-pleat trousers, cashmere and camel-hair overcoats, and tuxedos with vests rather than cummerbunds.

And if cap-toed oxfords, fedoras and bowlers, and hair slicked back with greasy kid stuff don't suddenly become hip again, we'll hand in our trend-spotting diploma.

RTC "Mobster" costumer Ellen Mirojnick is no stranger to the slick bad-guy look. She's the wardrobe expert responsible for the coolly evil style of Michael Douglas' modern-day gangster in "Wall Street."

Ms. Mirojnick, 42, also coordinated costumes for Mr. Douglas' films "Fatal Attraction" and "Black Rain" and is working on the actor's new movie, a psychological thriller called "Basic Instincts."

In costuming "Mobsters," Ms. Mirojnick found herself restricted by the period drape of the clothes but free to experiment with colors and textures. Her team of nine assistants scoured shops to find vintage suits, hats and dresses for the extras. Ninety percent of the stars' clothes -- including hats and shoes -- were designed and constructed for the movie, however.

"It's design based on historical research," Ms. Mirojnick said. "I selected the fabrics, and chose styles based on what was best for each character.

"We wanted it to not look like a costume epic, so these characters would feel comfortable in the clothes they wore. They are classically styled clothes, with the only difference being the way the jackets were cut high under the arms and narrow across the chest. The actors weren't used to that kind of restriction."

Because Academy Awards often go to costumers working with period clothes, Ms. Mirojnick thinks it likely -- though not essential -- that she'll get a nomination.

"It's a little too early to tell how many people want to buy this look. But the overall response has been pretty terrific. People like the way it looks."

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