No fashion trends set by new 'Sabrina' Fashion: Looks in movie-remake reflect the '90s, with women dressing down and men discovering that clothes make the man.

January 25, 1996|By Linda Gillan Griffin | Linda Gillan Griffin,HOUSTON CHRONICLE

OK, I admit it -- I cried. Big tears, all over my cashmere sweater. Still, I was fairly sedate compared to the man sitting a couple of seats away. Blubbering.

He, I'd like to believe, was wrapped up in the emotion of the story, a romantic comedy in which a chauffeur's geeky daughter returns from Paris transformed into a beautiful and sophisticated woman who entices not just one but both of the millionaire Larrabee sons.

I, on the other hand, was crying over the fashions.

While I have to admit that pantsuits and sleek velvet ball gowns are more apropos of the '90s, some deep-seated '50s part of me was craving the sight of opulent, luxurious clothing -- and not on the male actors.

But there was Linus Larrabee (actor Harrison Ford), looking even more elegant than Sabrina Fairchild, played by Julia Ormond. And David Larrabee (played by NBC late-night talker Greg Kinnear) was wearing what looked like a Versace or a Nicole Miller bow tie.

If forced to examine the movie from that sociological mountaintop, veteran costume designer Ann Roth is right.

The wardrobe Edith Head put together for the original "Sabrina," including ball gowns and such by Hubert de Givenchy, wouldn't work today. Women aren't designer-crazy, nor do most women, even on Long Island estates, wear French "haute couture." Nor ** do most women return from Paris trips wearing big hoop earrings and dragging French poodles with rhinestone collars.

It's just that I was up for the sight of Sabrina meeting David at the Glen Cove train station in perhaps a little Christian Lacroix suit -- red, maybe, or even hot pink. Instead, she wears an Armani look-alike pantsuit, tiny "sleeping" jewelry and a hat with a turned-up, wide brim.

And in the big party scene, Sabrina's simple but elegant forest-green, velvet gown with a jewel-covered, net jacket is upstaged by David's jazzy tie and Linus' elegant tuxedo, the latter made by Paris designer Nino Cerruti.

But isn't that just like the '90s? Women are dressing down, while men are only now beginning to discover that clothes make the man.

In the new "Sabrina," David has "done a Gap ad" and wears his black leather jacket with a white T-shirt and jeans. This time around the men got the designer clothes, while Roth took care of Ormond's clothes herself.

It must have been a challenge for Roth to transform the obviously endowed Ormond, age 30, into the adolescent Sabrina. Audrey Hepburn was only 25 when she played the part and had the ultra-thin figure of a ballerina. She wore a wasp-waisted print jumper, black long-sleeve knit shirt and ponytail for the opening scenes. Ormond got a bib-front jumper to wear over a short-sleeve, drawstring-neck sweat shirt.

Barbie doll proportions

Ormond also wore a ponytail and a pair of glasses with lenses as thick as Coke bottles. As the Paris transformation occurs,

Ormond suddenly loses the glasses and, like the original Sabrina, has her hair cut into a cap of curls. She also fills out to proportions not unlike those of a Barbie doll, and in the party scene shows major cleavage.

The original "Sabrina" was a fashion-trendsetting movie. It was rare in those days for a big-name designer to do a star's wardrobe, and Hepburn was said to have been wearing home-sewn clothes in private life. The little black Givenchy cocktail dress, worn with a jeweled hat, reportedly spawned a thousand copies, and her stretchy black T-shirt and tight, cropped capri pants became the uniform of choice for 1950s coffeehouses and poetry readings.

One cannot see Ormond's wardrobes setting trends -- if she has legs, the audience doesn't know it -- and the ball gown worn by Maude Larrabee, the men's now-widowed mother, is a ghastly white Jacquard silk creation with a huge purple-print cummerbund and half-bow that looks like a Hanae Mori angel costume gone bad.

The star designer for the new "Sabrina," Paris-based Cerruti, also designed for the films "Pretty Woman," "The War of the Roses" and "The Crossing Guard." Ford hand-picked costume designer Bernie Pollack (brother of the film's director, Sidney Pollack), who basically designed the suits and tuxedos and left the fine tailoring and manufacturing to Cerruti 1881, Cerruti's "haute couture" line.

The idea was to make Ford's older character look sophisticated and modern enough to attract a young woman. The attraction is more believable in the new "Sabrina" than in the original. Ford is 53 and looks 45; Humphrey Bogart was 55 and acted as if he were an icy 60.

Hollywood gossip had it that Bogart detested Hepburn and the film's director, Billy Wilder, while Hepburn and William Holden, who played David Larrabee, enjoyed an off-camera romance.

For the new "Sabrina," Ford has a very expensive watch and a wardrobe of 15 suits in shades of blue and gray, some pin-stripes, all two-button and single-breasted, designed with a slightly lower drop to the lapel.

The Linus Larrabee of the '90s always wears white shirts with French cuffs and black or blue polka-dot bow ties.

Harrison Ford geeky?

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