'In Living Color' Flygirls start a fashion buzz

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES -- They certainly weren't inspired by the uniformed sameness of the June Taylor dancers.

And forget any fashion comparisons to the lame-clad "Solid Gold" shakers and movers.


The Flygirls, a quintet of stylish hoofers who hip-hop on the Fox TV show "In Living Color" every Sunday night, have a look that might best be described as a combination of street chic, haute couture and K mart blue-light special. The mishmash of styles has inspired designers worldwide to clone the look, and legions of wanna-bes canvass the racks of Los Angeles boutiques in hopes of doing the same thing.

The show's costume designer Michelle Cole likes to sum up the Flygirls' semi-androgynous style this way: "A little bit of girl and a little bit of boy."


Los Angeles designer Claudia Gersh of Helios calls the look "rap meets disco." Henry Duarte, who designs the Sqwear line, refers to the look as "Uptown Motown."

If you have not caught their 20-second opening act now in reruns here is what you have been missing: Sequined mini-dresses over combat boots, sweat shirts pulled over chiffon skirts, leather-studded bustiers riding above football trousers cut like hot pants and laced at the crotch. And always, because a flygirl a term taken from New York street lingo, which means "the best" wouldn't fly without them, fishnet hose.

"The Flygirls are like little runway models coming out at the start of the show. But their look is not about dresses and heels," Cole says. "It's about contradiction, things you wouldn't think go together, but do." Like a strand of pearls worn with a man's suit.

Cole describes another Flygirl look, one she calls the "cutting-edge Catholic schoolgirl" ensemble. It consists of a hooded shirt worn over a white T-shirt with a pleated plaid miniskirt, fishnet hose and Dr. Martens combat boots. The look is topped off with a cropped motorcycle jacket.

Every week Cole collaborates with choreographer Rosie Perez to create new looks for the dancers Lisa Marie Todd, Carrie Ann Inaba, Cari French, Jennifer Lopez and Deidre Lang all of whom are twentysomething and guard their ages like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

"In terms of cutting edge," Inaba says, "I think we're touching all bases music, dance and fashion. They're all connected and for us, they all come from the street."

Adds Lopez: "Right now the dance scene is very loose. So is fashion. It's whatever you want it to be, expressive or explosive. It's dance fashion with attitude and feeling."

To achieve the Flygirl look, Cole visits designer showrooms long before their collections are sashayed on runways in Los Angeles and New York.


She shops at thrift stores for accessories and junk jewelry, including pearls, which she says "feminize" the combat boots, leather gloves and Carnaby caps, biker jackets, zippered spandex jumpsuits, and bold-colored outfits emblazoned with peace, love and mystic symbols.

Cole also browses and buys at boutiques and specialty stores across Southern California. The designer picks up more ideas from her observations of the Los Angeles' nightclub scene and street life.

Cole also gets help directly from Los Angeles designers.

Duarte's Sqwear line includes men's suits in bold colors that have become favorites of the singing group Tony! Toni! Tone!

When Cole saw a men's suit designed by Duarte on one of the group's videos, she tracked down the designer and asked him to whip up five in the brightest yellow, green, orange, blue and purple. The Flygirls flaunted the she-suits at a Motown salute and later wore them on "In Living Color."

Fan mail poured in for information about the outfits, Cole says, and that persuaded Duarte to develop a Sqwear line of suits for women. The suits, which include a vest, retail for $650.


The basic Flygirl wardrobe

So you wanna dress like a Flygirl? For starters, says costumer Michelle Cole, it helps to have a toned physique "not a model's body, but a body with a little bit of muscle, a dancer's body." And, she adds, a "good attitude about clothes contradiction" helps. The rest is a snap.

Here's how to pull off the look:

* Cheap pearls small not oversized to wrap around the wrists owear long around the neck are big. Flowers, particularly daisies pinned to garments, are a Flygirl must. Both accessories "feminize" the tough chic look.

* Dr. Martens combat boots or granny boots (patent leather iout) worn with black fishnet hose and black socks folded (not slouched) over the top are a Flygirl trademark. "Pretty Woman" thigh-high boots also qualify.

* Extra large white T-shirts, preferably from a 3-pack by Hanesare part of the look. Studded bra tops, kneepads, race car driving leather gloves are other lead accessories.


* A pleated miniskirt, a cropped motorcycle jacket and several hooded sweat shirts complete the list. (Non-hooded sweat shirts won't do; the hood is the "thing," Cole says.)