They're tanned, they're hip and they're very California. They're the heartthrobs of "Beverly Hills 90210," and their style is more contagious with the under-16 set than the Asian flu.
The look? Squeaky-clean, carefree and rich. Big hair and overdone mascara are fashion crimes at affluent West Beverly Hills High.
Media sensations Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty play Brandon and Brenda, fraternal twins transplanted from Minnesota to Beverly Hills' fast lane. Every Thursday at 9 p.m. the twins are tempted and cajoled by the Beautiful People they go to school with.
"It's a very popular show," gushes Marie Sausnock, 10, a fifth grader at Warren Elementary School in Cockeysville. "All the girls talk about it in the bathroom on Fridays. I like the way the characters on the show dress -- each one is different."
Girls also like the updated, '50s look of "90210's" male mainstays.
Brandon and B.F. (best friend) Dylan's swept-back hairstyle and sideburns are a must for guys who want to cop the B. H. attitude. Shelye Knotts, a stylist at Ashley's Salon at the Inn at the Colonnade, says the short-around-the-ear, gel-in-the-hair look has been hot with Hopkins undergrads for months. A word of warning: Those long sideburns take a little time.
The clothing may look laid-back, but the costume designer's approach to dressing the actors is anything but.
"I try to punch in as much color as possible," says wardrobe expert Dianne Anthony Kennedy. She also tries to limit her use of black. "It's a color that's used too much," she says. She's worked out a range of colors that complements each character.
The next step is to establish each actor's look. Ms. Kennedy starts by analyzing the characters: where they're from, their attitude toward life -- and their net worth.
"For Brenda and Brandon, I stick to a basic girl- and boy-next-door look," she explains. "Now, Brenda is progressing a bit. Because of the influence of her new friends, she's becoming more style-conscious."
Kelly, a rich kid from a dysfunctional family, is elegantly stylish -- and a snob. "She concentrates on clothing as an outer shell to cover her hurt, so I dress her to the nines."
For Donna, another wealthy character, the approach is different. "She's a very quirky, fun, and sweet character, so I put her in funthings: wild prints with lots of color and plaid shirts."
Andrea, the editor of West Beverly Hills High's school paper and definitely not rich, is spared the cliched brainy look. "Instead, her dressing is romantic, lacy, pretty," Ms. Kennedy says.
And the guys? Brandon, true to his Minnesota roots, is grounded in earth tones. "I keep his clothes low-key."
But Dylan, a cross between James Dean and Elvis, gets the vintage-clothes treatment. "Or silk copies of '50s and '60s shirts," Ms. Kennedy adds.
Characters David and Ian are counterparts to, respectively, Donna and Kelly. "I do a lot of wild things with David," she says. "In an upcoming episode he's doing a scene dressed in a black smoking jacket, T-shirt and jeans."
Ian, on the other hand, is a rich clothes horse. "He's a lady's man, so I dress him in lots of silk shirts, black leather jackets and Italian loafers with white socks."
To satisfy the show's voracious demand for hip clothes -- there are between 50 and 100 costume changes in a typical production week -- it's shop-till-you-drop for Ms. Kennedy. "I spend a lot of time in stores," she deadpans.
L But running out of fashion ideas, she says, isn't a problem.
"I'm a people-watcher," she says. "We shoot at Torrance High School outside Los Angeles and I take the time to sit and watch the kids. And though we do a few things differently, I can spot kids going by and say, 'There's Donna, there's Brenda.' "
Yet Ms. Kennedy doubts "Beverly Hills 90210" is a major influence on the way kids are dressing -- at least for now. "I think it's a little too soon for any major trends. Maybe next year."
To avoid dating the show, the costume designer is constantly searching for clothes that reach beyond current fads. "Reruns have something to do with it, but it's also what is best for the show. Simple, quality dressing is my philosophy," Ms. Kennedy notes.
It's a message she hopes the show's young audience is getting.
"Teen-agers have a such a misdirected sense of dressing," she laments. "It would be wonderful if kids got a good fashion lesson from watching '90210.' They'd learn to mix and match their wardrobes instead of buying faddish pieces that they wear until they get tired of them-- and end up hanging in the back of the closet."
The point may be getting through already, says a seventh grader at Cockeysville Middle School. "Some girls have started wearing nicer clothes because of the show," reports Stasia Daskalakis, 12. "It's because the characters are dressing nice."
Following the show's recent climb out of the basement to number 14 in the ratings, the malls have been full of kids intent on cloning their favorite "90210" character's look.
"Girls come in every day and say Brenda or Kelly had on a really neat outfit, and I'll help them put it together," says Joseph Rose, assistant manager at the Merry-Go-Round in Owings Mills Town Center. "There are no particular items they look for -- just a casual, comfortable, yet neat, look."
The "Beverly Hills 90210" look, in other words, isn't easy to pin down, says Ms. Kennedy. "Maybe because it's such a basic style -- there's nothing really wild enough to copy."
Except, maybe, good taste.
ZIPPING INTO '90210' FASHION
Want to cop a hip '90210' attitude? It's not as ostentatious as you might expect: For example, you won't have to shell out big bucks for a Chanel jacket to wear over jeans. Instead, the look is classic, laid-back . . . and moneyed.
* For girls, it's the ghostly pale look: long, straight hair with bangs and tendrils.
* Guys, grow your hair long on top, trim the sides short and sweep it all back with gel.
* Don't forget the sideburns: It's what makes the sulky, Elvis/James Dean look happen.
* Black Levi 501 jeans, thick leather belts, cotton T-shirts and a leather jacket complete the Dylan/Luke Perry look.
* The 1940s-inspired man-tailored look, a la Brenda: pants with vests and no shirt or striped shirts and vintage silk ties.
* For men: forget about V-neck undershirts. The look is a white cotton T-shirt that peeks out at the throat.
* Pouty lips a la Brenda: Celeb Shannen Doherty lines her lips with a natural-tone pencil, fills in the lips with the pencil and applies a mocha lipstick.
* And don't forget the cowboy boots.