Murphy Brown is pregnant, and she's still very stylish

April 01, 1992|By Mary Gottschalk | Mary Gottschalk,Knight-Ridder News Service

It didn't take long for Bill Hargate, costume designer for the hit "Murphy Brown" television show, to discover what a lot of women could have told him: Maternity clothes leave a lot to be desired.

When Mr. Hargate learned that Ms. Brown, played by Candice Bergen, is going to have a baby this season, he says, "I thought about quitting. I didn't know anything about maternity clothes, and when I looked in the windows it was kind of frightening. I thought there's got to be another way to do it.

"The network said the look you've established must carry on, and now we're about halfway through the amount of maternity clothes we'll need, and I think we're doing well," he says. "It's a different look, but we've maintained the Murphy Brown look."

The designer defines the look he created 3 1/2 years ago, and is still refining, as "basically a classic look, an American look, a look for the woman on the go. She's not dragging around a lot of fabric, getting in and out of cars, trains and airplanes. Murphy travels the world, and it's a look you can move fast in, streamlined and pared down.

"She's known for her blazers and her tapered skirts, her beautifully tailored trousers -- and also blouses and shirts with high-standing collars and nice pieces of jewelry."

In designing a maternity wardrobe for Ms. Bergen, who is not pregnant but is wearing gradually increasing pads for her stomach, breasts and hips, Mr. Hargate says he skipped checking out current maternity clothing offerings.

"I don't think I had to," he says.

So what's he done? And what tips does he have for women who actually are pregnant?

"The route we've gone is using really good oversize shirts that work well with stretch leggings. You can get leggings in a big size and the shirts are a cover-up. Sometimes I add a vest to break up the look of a large area of white," he says.

"I've recycled some of the jackets we used maybe year before last when really large-scale jackets were popular. Although they don't close completely, they still look good because they break up that area so the shirt doesn't look quite as wide as it would normally."

Mr. Hargate says he's also recycled some skirts and pants by putting stretch panels into them.

One look he's hoping to try definitely will not work for real career women.

"I'd like to have her on the air in an 'F.Y.I' segment and have on one of her old coats, then when the taping is over and she turns around it's cut up the back or she's wearing sweat pants on the bottom," he says. "I'm hoping to do some jokey things to get through and also show what they might do on the air."

In addition to his "Murphy Brown" chores, which include costuming all the characters, he designs outfits for many other clients.

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