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Desperate? Cut it out!

Your life may not be as dramatic - and your body not as hot - as those of the TV Housewives, but you can channel their fashion sense. Hardly hausfrau.

Published October 14, 2006

[Times illustration: Deborah Block]

[Getty Images (2005)]
Costume designer Cate Adair advises women to accentuate their strong points rather than dwell on the bits they dislike. "Being positive is) a lot more productive," she says.

The color is squash.

Some would call it pumpkin. Some would see it as orange with pigmentation problems. A few might consider it a mutation of peach.

It's squash.

Anyone can wear this color, she says.

This means you.

Few people believe her. Including you, most likely. Even though her job is to dress your close friends Bree, Gabrielle, Lynette, Susan and Edie, and their families, boyfriends, friends and enemies.

Ask her about the 36 outfits they recently went through in one day of shooting alone.

And you love how they look.

(Except for those hideous green bridesmaid dresses Bree originally picked out, but they were supposed to be hideous.)

Still, few people want to trust her on the squash.

Trust her. She's Cate Adair, the Emmy-nominated costume designer for Desperate Housewives.

"I love this color," Adair said before emceeing a fashion show at Nordstrom at Tampa's International Plaza last Saturday.

"I honestly think every skin tone can wear this color."

Adair, 50, doesn't just talk the squash. She walks the squash. Well, wears it. The blond Brit with fair skin wore a suede blazer in that color from AK Anne Klein, one of the fashion show's sponsors, on this day. (She paired it with a black top and black pants.) And she looked great.

When the jacket went down the runway on a model with different coloring, it looked just as good. But skepticism seemed to meet Adair's effort to sell it to the audience of 100-plus. And when the same jacket appeared later in light brown, a woman within earshot of Adair announced that she liked that color better.

"No!" Adair responded, offering her tip of the day for the squash hater: You'd look great in it.

How can you not trust the woman who puts the perfect shade of pink on redheaded Marcia Cross?

Too hung up on the squash thing? Let's move on to a safer topic: wide belts, a big fall trend.

"I think some of those very big wide belts look much prettier on someone who has some curve on them because it accentuates the curve," Adair said. "I just did that silhouette on my Edie (Nicollette Sheridan). She looked phenomenal. This is an actress who is in exquisite shape and has some curve to her and is very proud of it. And with good reason."

You can't argue with that (and don't even think of picking on the point of how your curves aren't quite like Nicollette Sheridan's).

Adair's role as pop culture's latest fashion arbiter, established by her savvy on Desperate Housewives, has taken her around the country the past few months talking with regular people about our style problems. She represents not only AK Anne Klein but Jones New York and Nine West in a series of fashion shows at Nordstrom stores.

She has answered specialized questions - one woman in Tampa wanted to know if it's awkward to wear gold and silver jewelry together; it's not - as well as concerns she has found to be universal. For those, she has four basic pieces of advice:

Focus on what you like about yourself

"Every single person I know, and every single person I've ever dressed - whether it was for a character or a personal appearance - we all have bits that we . . . dislike/aren't quite happy with," Adair said. "There's always that grumbly bit of 'Oh, I wish my ankles were narrower' - that's one of mine - or 'I wish I could take just a little of my thigh and put it on my bosoms' . . . instead of saying, 'Gosh, but I have a great waistline,' or 'Everybody always tells me my arms are fantastic,' or 'Everyone comments on what great skin tone I have.'

"(Being positive is) a lot more productive."

And no quibbling allowed with the implication that Eva Longoria has a problem with one of her body parts.

Make sure you have the right foundation

Spanx, whose products include body shapers and slimmers, are "genius," she said. And wear the right bra for your outfit; for example, that nice lacy bra really doesn't work underneath a T-shirt.

Don't get into a rut

"I think we get to a point where we're scared to experiment," Adair said. "And that doesn't mean you have to suddenly go rushing around in tie-dyed hair and skulls. But you get to a point where you're feeling safe. . . . And by doing that, you limit just a whole host of wonderful things that are out there that you could have fun with."

If big risks are too intimidating, try small ones. Experiment with accessories, handbags or shoes. Even a different neckline on your shirts.

Go shopping with somebody you trust

Pick out five pieces you think the other person would never consider trying on - say, Edie wear for a Susan or Lynette type - and have that person do the same for you.

"They may all be a disaster," Adair said, "or you may discover in that mix that you've got so stuck in a pair of flare-leg, low-cut jeans and a long T-shirt that you've forgotten that you may look great in something else."

And if you ever watch Desperate Housewives and feel yourself sliding into the pit of "I could never wear those clothes," here's the thing to grab onto:

Anyone can channel Housewives style.

"It's a combination of using the right colors and the right silhouettes, and not trying to make all the statements in one outfit," Adair said. "If you look at the clothes carefully, I don't, either. If it's a lot of skirt, you'll usually find that it's a very simple top. And if it's a busy shirt, it's not a lot of jewelry."

And yes, sometimes it's squash.

Sharon Fink can be reached at (727) 893-8525 or


Where to buy

Cate Adair says she gets clothes for the show "everywhere": department stores, including Nordstrom, boutiques, specialty stores, second-hand and vintage stores. She also designs outfits; her work includes several of Gabrielle's suits.

On the Web

Read Cate Adair's Desperate Housewives costuming blog at

Watch It

Desperate Housewives airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on WFTS-Ch. 28. New and past episodes are available for downloading at iTunes for $1.99 each, and new episodes can be watched for free beginning the day after they air at

How to dress your Eva Longoria paper doll

1. Finish reading the newspaper. You don't want to accidentally cut something on the other side you meant to read.

2. Use scissors to carefully cut around the outside of the doll and the clothing. On the doll, also cut the small area between her right hand and body, and the space between her legs. You'll need these spaces to secure the clothing.

3. Cut the two slits in the base of the doll. Make a loop with the base and connect the two slits. Your doll should now be able to stand.

4. Mix and match the clothing to create outfits, folding the tabs to secure them on the doll.

[Last modified October 13, 2006, 10:20:36]

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