As the saying goes, every dog has its day. So it was only a matter of time until the dubious luster of low-rent culture stole the limelight of fickle fashion.
Forget treed East Coast enclaves and ultraswank Bel Air mansions, it's trailer parks and and the hinterlands that are the location of choice for movies, TV and print ads these days. Hollywood animal trainers are passing on chi-chi Shih Tzusand are opting instead for pit bulls. Costume designers are shopping at Kmart and Target instead of Armani and Barneys. And fashion magazine stylists are deserting Miami Beach for America's backwater towns.
Tasteful? Take a hike. Elegant? Outta here. The high camp of white trash is upon us.
While Hollywood and TV have always had a certain tacky edge -- Peg Bundy has been sporting leopard, skin-tight pants and a three-bottle-a-day Aqua Net habit for some time now, and Marlon Brando's iconographic white T-shirt was a rip-off of everyday working-class clothes -- it wasn't until recently that popular culture so overtly embraced trailer chic.
Along with "Kalifornia," starring Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis, three other films showcase scuzzy characters this fall: "True Romance;" the Meg Ryan/Dennis Quaid vehicle "Flesh and Bone;" and "Hold Me, Kiss Me, Thrill Me," starring Sean Young as a woman named Twinkie -- you gotta love that one -- who lives in a depressing Southern California trailer park.
While other movies may not have so fully committed to the concept, they do show traces of this trend. In "Father Hood," Patrick Swayze plays a gum-snapping, gold-chain-draped, ex-hood. Even the Muscles from Brussels, Jean Claude Van Damme, is in on the act -- in "Hard Target," he sports the ultimate trash-lovers 'do: a Billy Ray Cyrus rat tail with hair extensions.
Says "Roseanne" costume designer Erin Quigley of the show's Sandra Bernhardt/Nancy character: "She gets some horrible designer stuff on sale at a fraction of the cost because no one in their right mind would spend $400 on a pair of those pants with the green Tarzan print all over them. Nancy likes anything that shows off her saucy rear end. She sells it, Sister!"
By now, the message is clear to trend victims: Forget Lancome, Calvin Klein and Manolo Blahnik. Think instead Maybelline, Frederick's of Hollywood and Candies. But remember to add a heavy cloak of attitude as the finishing touch.
If you need further guidance or inspiration, you've got it: We went slumming through the current crop of big- and little-screen offerings and unearthed the seediest, albeit most glamorous, victims of high tack.
We rated them on a scale of one to five trash cans -- one being a wannabe blue light special shopper and five being the stereotypical trailer park neighbor from your most politically incorrect imagination.
Brad Pitt as Early Grayce, a redneck psycho-killer in "Kalifornia."
* Beauty school coiffure: In a word -- unwashed. Pitt must have gone weeks without shampoo to achieve this greasy 'do.
* Bluelight Special wardrobe: Gas-pumping attire -- white
undershirts, polyester dress shirts, filthy caps.
* Accessories: Chipped tooth, armpit stains, stomach tattoo, horseshoe pinky ring with fake diamonds.
* Culinary ethos: Buys beef jerky from a jar at a convenience store; baffled by Evian; swills Lucky Lager.
* Most offensive traits: Takes shoes off at table and picks his toes through holes in his disgustingly foul socks; routinely spits; urinates in public.
* Seedy on-location shoot: A trailer coach with a debris-strewn yard including broken appliances, rusted cars, weather-beaten furniture, hubcaps and several pit bulls. Other locations include numerous squalid motels and a nuclear-test site in Nevada.
* Idols/influences: Charles Manson imbued with a moronic humor.
Trash Meter: * * * * *
Juliette Lewis as Adele Corners, Early's naive "Momma" in "Kalifornia."
* Bluelight Special wardrobe: Of the Kmart/Jaclyn Smith variety -- tube tops, halter and skirt coordinates; second-hand, red Kinney pumps.
* Beauty school coiffure: Matted hack job -- compliments of Early.
* Accessories: Pink plastic camera, Wet'N'Wild lipstick, plastic little-girl barrettes.
* Most offensive trait: Picks her nose. Did we have to see that?
* Seedy on-location shoot: The Luckie Street Grill, a dive where she slings hash.
* Idol/inspiration: Minnie Pearl or any of the "Hee Haw" gang.
Trash Meter: * * * *
Sandra Bernhard as Nancy, an again/off again lesbian on "Roseanne."
* Bluelight Special wardrobe: Says "Roseanne" costume designer Erin Quigley: "In the past, Nancy has favored cheap knock-offs -- really ugly Chanel stuff, grisly Versace animal prints. She likes to show off her body. Look for Dolphin shorts paired with suntan L'Eggs pantyhose this season."
* Beauty school coiffure: Mangy '60s pixie, a cross between Mrs. Brady and Shaggy on Scooby Dooby Do.
* Seedy on-site locations: The Lunch Box, a loose-meat sandwich joint; a bowling alley, bingo hall, Las Vegas and the Conner home.
* Accessory: V.P.L.s (visible panty lines).
* Idol/influence: Pia Zadora.
Trash Meter: * * * *
Drew Barrymore as the Guess? model in ads appearing in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Entertainment Weekly.
* Beauty school coiffure: Conspicuously dark roots; that matted, just-rolled-out-of-bed look fastened back with visible bobby pins.
* Bluelight Special wardrobe: Leopard-print strapless dress. Maybelline on a MAC budget; You think she wakes up looking this cheap?
* Seedy photo shoot location: An unmade bed inside a trailer, posing under a doorway.
* Accessories: Eyebrows tweezed to splinter-like perfection; plenty of ink (read: tattoos); chipped red nail polish; exposed black bra straps.
NB * Idols/influences: Mae West, '50s trash/glam queen Jayne Mans
field, and Madonna in "Sex."
Trash Meter: * * *
Patricia Arquette as ex-hooker in "True Romance."
* Beauty school coiffure: Hair color by Nice & Easy. Or was it simply peroxide that produced those unnaturally yellow tones? Her feathered Farrah 'do must have required an industrial curling iron.
* Bluelight Special wardrobe: Viva Las Vegas! Cheap outfits that Peg Bundy would covet. Lotsa polka dots and leopard print. One outfit consists of turquoise stiletto-heeled plastic ankle boots that clash hideously with a fake leopard fur coat -- worn over a hooded sweat shirt -- and red and black striped gloves. "She would probably do her shopping in a mall," says "True Romance"'s costume designer Susan Becker, "but I don't think we'd find her in Chanel."
* Accessories: Square pink plastic "Malibu Barbie" purse; Lee Press-on fingernails; oversized sunglasses with plastic cobalt blue frames; exposed blue bra straps under every halter; big plastic earrings; candy necklace from Magic Mountain; Minnie Mouse pumps from Frederick's.
* Culinary ethos: Chili cheeseburgers and chili fries.
* Seedy on-location shoot: A cramped phone booth on the side of the highway. Talk about finding love in all the wrong places.
Trash Meter: * * *
Tatjana Patitz ("Rising Sun") as tarted-up model in a July Vogue spread called "Dress for Less."
* Bluelight Special wardrobe: Cheap mall rat all the way.
* Beauty school coiffure: Bottle blond dye job gone bad. Three-inch strip of black roots a la Cruella De Vil grazing her crooked part.
* Seedy on-site location: Street chic scenes such as one where she's cruising down the street next to a woman wearing a full head of curlers and holding a fast food plastic cup.
* Accessories: Matching white vinyl accessories -- wide belt and stiletto heels, denim jacket with chunky stitching looking suspiciously like Sears Toughskins. And here's a kicker: Elsewhere in the magazine, two women wear plastic, high-heeled mules that look exactly like Candies. A peek at the style credits revealed these shoes were designed by high-toned stylemeister Manolo Blahnik and that they cost about $300 more than Candies. It only proves that when haute couture goes base, don't expect a discount.
* Idol/influence: Deborah Harry.
Trash Meter: * *
Kim Ratcliff is a California-based free-lance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and LA Style magazine.