New York — Lucy Ricardo was a fashion icon for a generation and so was Alexis Carrington Colby. Ditto for Charlie's Angels, and Rachel, Monica and Phoebe.
TV characters not only wear the hottest trends; often they set them.
Remember Lucy's halter-top dresses with full skirts on "I Love Lucy"? And Alexis' shoulder-pad-filled blouses kept both her business and personal rivals on "Dynasty" at bay. Both looks caught on with women in a way that couture clothes worn by supermodels never will.
But Lucy's cinched waists, the Angels' sexy athletic wear and even Rachel's much-imitated bouncy hairdo from "Friends" early days have seen their heydays come and go, so 47 students at the California Design College have given these trendy-turned-tired styles a facelift.
The Trendsetters in Television fashion show, recently staged in Beverly Hills, Calif., sent above-the-knee dresses in polka-dot prints down the runway for a modern Lucy, and a three-piece suit minus the usual fourth piece -- a shirt -- surely would work on "Charlie's Angels." Meanwhile, the linen suits from "Miami Vice" still have a place in pop culture -- as long as the colors are turned down from colorful sorbet shades to neutrals.
Anghela Zograyan, 27, said she hoped the design-technology techniques she learned in the fashion program will help her launch a career in costume design. Her part of the project was to create even more up-to-the- minute fashions for "Sex and the City," already considered to be the most style-conscious show on television.
"I took a lot of '40s and '50s looks and made them sexier by using different fabrics, like silk taffeta and crinkled silk chiffon," explained Zograyan, interviewed by phone.
She said she tried to mix what she expected to be the immediate future of fashion -- cocktail dresses with low backs and slits with chiffon inserts -- with each of the characters' personalities.
But while the "Sex and the City" girls influence what mainstream America wears, the show also reflects what mainstream America likes. "Now you're seeing people in floral, fuller skirts and rose details like Sarah Jessica Parker wore," Zograyan says.
"TV is sort of a moving fashion catalog," said Donna Mills, star of the 1980s series "Knots Landing," which students identified as one of the trend-making shows of that decade.
Mills said she received a lot of mail from viewers asking for hair and makeup tips, prompting her to create her own cosmetics kit sold on QVC.
"The general public is a little intimidated by 'fashion.' A lot of people don't know how to put things together or how to wear something. It's the same with makeup," Mills observed. "But when they see people -- even if it's on TV -- wearing the clothes and moving around in them, it is really helpful."
Also, noted Sabrina Kay, California Design College president and founder, not all the characters on television shows are young, tall and thin, which makes them a little bit more like real people. At the fashion show, students updated the plus-size wardrobes featured on "Designing Women" and "The Jeffersons."
"Their (the students') desire to do plus sizes shows some business sense because it's an underserved market," Kay said. "Our students are programmed to be practical. It's the way we train our students to make a career."