Beehives. Pencil skirts. Tight sweaters. Eyeliner.

Skinny pants. Sharkskin suits. Banlon shirts. Florsheims.

It was 1960s Baltimore, and these were the looks - expertly captured in the latest film version of Hairspray, which premieres tonight at the Charles Theatre.

The fashions of the musical represent the silhouettes and styles of a well-known time period - the calm before the civil rights storm; the iconoclastic Jackie O years.

But Hairspray is set squarely in Honville; the movie is as much an ode to ole Bawlmer as it is a colorful commentary on differences and dancing and doing the right thing.

So fittingly, the fashions have a decidedly Baltimore flair.

"It's a little exaggerated," says Rita Ryack, the movie's Tony- and Oscar-nominated costume designer. "It's bigger hair, pointier shoes, a little more makeup. The skirts are maybe a little tighter."

Ryack scoured yearbooks and watched old episodes of The Buddy Deane Show - the real-life version of Hairspray's Corny Collins Show - to get a feel for how Baltimoreans dressed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

"In 1962, everybody kind of dressed the same. The kids sort of dressed like the adults," she says. "But it was a very interesting time in America. [President John F.] Kennedy was still in office. It had so much intrigue, so much progress. We were really drifting toward a big change in fashion."

A personal touch
In making the costumes for the movie's key characters, Ryack wanted to stay true to the period as well as to original director John Waters' vision for the "nicest kids in town," and their parents and teachers.

But she also wanted to give Hairspray her own touches.

"It was an opportunity for me to go crazy. It's really my favorite time period," says Ryack, who says she was "lucky" to find plenty of vintage fabrics to work with. "I happen to be a little obsessed with the novelty prints of that time period. I love them. They're very witty and very unusual."

Ryack says she also was inspired, interestingly enough, by pictures of food in magazines and cookbooks from that period.

"I wanted it, as a musical, to look like a bakery window," she says. "There's something so distinctive about the colors."

For example, Ryack wanted blond and spoiled Amber (Brittany Snow) "to look like a cupcake all the time," she says.

And when Ryack dreamed up the color palette for the black teenagers in the movie, "all I could think of was baked beans," she says - which explains the preponderance of browns, reds and oranges on such characters as Seaweed (Elijah Kelley).

Ryack also kept in mind the subtle ways people of different races dressed back then.

"The black boys wore Chucks [Taylors], except when they were dressed up, and then they had very pointy shoes," Ryack says, "a little bit pointier and a little bit flashier than the white boys' were."