Channel your favourite TV character with clothes and accessories

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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NEW YORK - So, you admire the fashions of popular TV characters. Do you want to dress just like them?
This fall, you can if you favour the slim suits worn by one smartly dressed 1960s ad man, the sexy looks of those real-life housewives or necklaces dripping with "blood" - make that rubies - inspired by modern vampires.
The latest collaborations from the intersection of television and retail are licensed clothing and jewelry lines tied to the hit shows "Mad Men," the "Real Housewives" franchise and the vampire drama "True Blood."
"It is a loud and clear signal that the American consumer is looking for fashion excitement that isn't being delivered by traditional stores or designers," said David Wolfe, creative director at The Doneger Group, a fashion-forecasting company.
The agreements make sense, experts say, because people are watching more television, the shows are better today than in decades past, and because fashion is no longer limited to insiders.
"The whole world knows about fashion and follows fashion," said John Mincarelli, a fashion merchandising professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "It's the right time for the small screen."
People have always looked to all corners of the entertainment world for style cues, but TV is having a greater influence on fashion now because the shows themselves are more fashion-conscious, Wolfe said.
"In the 1950s and early '60s, people who chose clothes for most TV shows were afraid of being too fashionable because they thought the average American wouldn't get it," he said. "In the '70s and '80s, the young and the fashionable started to get it, but it was still too much for the mainstream taste level. I think the average American now gets it."
Viewers have emulated the style of TV characters for many years - from Mary Richards' beret to Carrie Bradshaw's stilettos. A savvy business ploy sometimes follows with sanctioned, licensed fashions: There was the "Davy Crockett" coonskin cap in the 1950s, the side-button doctor shirt tied to "Ben Casey" in the 1960s and the glitz and glamour of the 1980s captured in "The Dynasty Collection" by Nolan Miller.
TV's sway over fashion can be seen today at Target, where a line this season by designer Anna Sui was inspired by "Gossip Girl."
Last year, "Sex and The City" devotees could buy lingerie from Cosabella - licensed by HBO - that was modeled on the show's four feisty women.
Of the latest as-seen-on-TV looks, the most high profile is likely the Brooks Brothers "Mad Men Edition" suit, inspired by AMC's Emmy-winning 1960s Madison Avenue drama. The retailer is selling 250 of the grey sharkskin suits through the season finale on Nov. 8. Selling for $998, it has '60s detailing, including a two-button jacket with narrow lapels, diagonal pockets and side vents.
The trimmer suit has been around for several seasons (Brooks Brothers brought it back in 2006). But "Mad Men" is giving the silhouette a boost by showing today's man how it comes alive, said Lou Amendola, Brooks Brothers' chief merchandising officer, calling the TV visual "a major selling tool."
"They relate to it. They see it and it really gives men a sense of credibility," he said. "It's, 'Oh I can wear that slimmer suit. It's in."'
"Mad Men" costume designer Janie Bryant, who created the suit, calls it a modern version of what she designs for the Don Draper character. "When a suit is fitted and tailored to your body, it looks very sharp and elegant, and that's the look of the suit," Bryant said.
Wolfe said the suit is a smart move, especially as the shaky economy lingers. "There's a groundswell desire to look more professional in the workplace," he said. "Nobody looks more serious about business than the guys on 'Mad Men."'
Women who aspire to look like those drama-loving divas from the "Real Housewives" can buy activewear and accessories based on the Bravo shows.
"We felt that consumers and fans of the show would be really interested in owning a piece of the glamorous life of being a 'Real Housewife,"' said Jen Turner, vice-president for licensing and strategic partnerships for Bravo. "It's a fun, sexy, blingy activewear apparel line."
The line, co-branded with Royal Plush, also offers loungewear, denim and handbags. It's set to go on sale at stores including Bloomingdales and Fred Segal.
Though some have questioned the "Housewives"' taste, Mincarelli, who feels most of the country makes questionable apparel choices, says anything that gets people to think more about what they're wearing is good.
"It's not just throwing on Russell Athletic," he said. "Since a lot of people wear activewear, the 'Housewives' activewear will be their fashion statement."
Turner says that because people want to buy what they see on TV, Bravo will be looking for more chances to sell products tied to its shows. Earlier this year, the network teamed up with handbag designer Kooba to license a bag - seen on "NYC Prep" - in exclusive colours.
Meanwhile, vampire fans - and there seem to be many of them in this "Twilight" era - can emulate their favourite characters from HBO's "True Blood" with ruby-dripping jewelry. Licensed by HBO and created by Udi Behr, the line went on sale in September.
Behr says people need to escape to other worlds because of the "dark time" we live in.
"People want to look and dress like the characters, and in fashion today, the vampire motif is very strong. Blood is in," Behr said.
The three shows inspiring the latest looks have all become a part of pop culture, which could bode well for the products.
"Each of these stories is powerfully provocative," says Deborah Landis, founding director of the David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design at UCLA. "It's the successful provocative work that captures our imagination and moves us emotionally and psychically. That is when the fuse is lit - and that is when trends happen."

Organizations: Brooks Brothers, The Doneger Group, Fashion Institute of Technology Royal Plush David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design UCLA

Geographic location: NEW YORK, 1960s Madison Avenue

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