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Bevy Suburban

What married men really want -- The costume designer for ''The Stepford Wives'' took her ideas from what she thought husbands would want their perfect wives to look like

To conceptualize the perfectly manicured style of ''The Stepford Wives''' alluring automatons, Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth (''The English Patient'') delved into the minds of the movie's married men. ''I wanted the [fashion] to come out of their heads,'' says Roth of the characters played by Christopher Walken and Matthew Broderick. ''They are all corporate high achievers and brilliant scientists, so they have similar tastes,'' she says. ''They all want Breck Girls.''

Dressed in such country-club staples as Bermuda shorts and Lilly Pulitzer jackets, these Stepford husbands conjure up a domestic goddess at once demure and kinky, with candy-colored sundresses and gowns paired with spiky Manolo Blahniks. To satisfy this suburban fantasy, Roth customized both store-bought (Saks, Bergdorf) and secondhand clothesi -- n addition to creating original designs -- but was careful not to go too far. ''I didn't want it to be campy,'' she says of ''Queen Bee'' Claire Wellington's (Glenn Close) only slightly over-the-top lemon-lime floral frock and new neighbor Joanna's (Nicole Kidman) flouncy, girly pastels. ''I wanted all the women to look as naive as children's paper dolls,'' says Roth. Paper dolls with oomph: ''Every single woman had high [heels], a tiny waist, and a lovely bosom.'' Not to mention a wrinkle-free brow. ''They can't think,'' says Roth, ''so they have nothing to worry about!''

Originally posted Jun 25, 2004 Published in issue #771-772 Jun 25, 2004 Order article reprints