When It Comes To Fashion, Pittsburgh Says Bette Ain’t The Pits!

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A BaltoBoy Scan

By Kellie B. Gormly
Friday, December 26, 2003

So many chic outfits from top designers adorned hundreds of shapely bodies topped by gorgeous faces in the media this year.

Deciding who’s the chicest of the chic can be a never-ending debate.

Local pizazz purveyors in the Pittsburgh fashion and beauty community vary widely in their opinions about who among the 2003 high-profile crowd are the most stylish and elegant ladies, and sometimes who outdresses and outshines the other men. Wardrobe, hairstyle, poise and makeup, rather than natural beauty, all figure into the equation.

Elaine Gallagher, co-owner of The Chatterbox clothing boutique in Sewickley, extols the fashion virtues of Catherine Zeta-Jones because she says the actress is highly elegant rather than flashy and risque.

“She’s old Hollywood to me; she’s always glamorous,” Gallagher says. “She’s the whole package. … She is glamour from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. And she’s not a bone rack.”

Gallagher’s co-owner, Lauren Shrader, gives her nod to Jennifer Aniston because she’s “simple and elegant and always looks sexy,” she says.

Jan Larkey, a Pittsburgh image consultant, favors the classy dressing style of actress Diane Keaton, who often wears slacks and a tucked-in blouse. She also admires the sass and flair of Bette Midler, who dresses to entertain and “expresses her personality with her clothes … with a wink of the eye,” she says.

Philip Pelusi, owner of the Philip Pelusi hair styling salon chain and Phyto-Life by Philip Pelusi products, describes several high-profile ensembles that promptly came to mind when posed with the fashion champions of 2003 question.

Sarah Jessica Parker, he says, made a good, strong fashion statement with her Chanel dress at this year’s Emmy Awards. She does not have the same degree of natural beauty as some actresses, but she exercises skill in putting herself together and maximizing her features with hairstyles, clothes and fitness, Pelusi says.

By contrast, Pelusi says that actress Renee Zellweger makes an incredible fashion statement as well as being a natural beauty. After this year’s blockbuster movie “Chicago,” she and the cast seemed to resurrect the vintage attire look and bring it to the forefront.

Ex-spouses Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise are both sleek and sharp, Pelusi says. “It’s almost like she and Tom Cruise are in competition,” says Pelusi, who also is a fan of actresses Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek for their “sexy intelligence.”

Kidman is “definitely the fashion persona du jour who does a great job adapting to different looks, constantly changing her lipstick, clothes and hair style. She has a statuesque build and has the look of a ballet dancer … but she’s just able to show the versatility of her roles.”

Cruise, no longer the “Top Gun” type, has evolved with the times in his lankier, longer-haired look, which has become trendier these days, Pelusi observes. “I just think he carries it off well, because he’s still pretty masculine.”

Other snazzy male celebrity dressers Pelusi cites are Sting — a Helmut Lang-style dresser with simple but progressive clothes — and Academy Award winner Adrien Brody, who has adopted a nice combination of casual elegance and is wearing jeans less frequently.

“People are blurring of the line of fashion; it’s not just ladies anymore,” he says.

For both men and ladies, fashion includes both the trendy and flashy, and the classic and conservative. Larkey’s top male pick, for instance, is U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who “stands out as someone who is impeccably groomed — the fit of his suits, his posture — he has a commanding presence without saying a word.”

Spears, Aguilera top worst-dressed list

Britney Spears might be a key fashion trendsetter today — particularly for the youngest women and girls — but some fashion and beauty professionals around Pittsburgh have speared the pop-culture icon as the worst-dressed celebrity of the year and a sleazy role model for younger bodies.

Perhaps the most popular things and people, indeed, are not always the most well-liked.

“We think that the teenagers and younger girls look up to her, and we feel that she’s not a very good example for young kids,” says Elaine Gallagher, co-owner of The Chatterbox, an upscale clothier in Sewickley. “Everything she does is sexual. Sex does sell, but it’s too overt — it’s very obvious. I think (Spears) lets people dress her.”

Jan Larkey, a Pittsburgh image consultant, agrees — and says the same of Christina Aguilera, the famous young former Pittsburgher.

“I find it unfortunate that their image has been emulated by preteens who have no idea what message they’re sending,” says Larkey, who also calls Hillary Rodham Clinton glamour-deficient because she looks frequently disheveled, lacking polish.

Philip Pelusi, owner of the Philip Pelusi hair styling salon chain and Phyto-Life by Philip Pelusi products, also boos Spears because of her overly revealing dressing style.

“You take away the imagination,” says Pelusi, who also tags actor and comedian Robin Williams as fashion-challenged.

Spears and Aguilera are relishing the attention they draw with their seductive clothes, which misrepresent glamorous and sexy images, Larkey says.

“There’s a big difference between being sensuous and trashy,” she says. “Trashy is where I see too many entertainers going.”

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