This has been a relatively banner year for Washington-inspired fashions. First there was gold and mummy beads jewelry spun off from the King Tut exhibit that closed here last week. Then came the boost that President Carter gave to the granddad-style cardigan sweater.
Now we have the Annie dress.
Theoni Aldrege, the costume designer for "The Great Gatsby" and "Chorus Line" translated the Littel Orphan Annie comic strip dress literally for the star of the show now at Kennedy Center, down to white pique collars and white Mary Jane style shoes. She also created versions in Easter egg colors for the other orphans for the final curtain call.
The orphanage dresses worn earlier in the play, however, are what she imagines hand-me-down styles of the late 1920s looke like, with the fit of the late baggy. While the young actresses apparently like the costumes, they don't relish the ankle-high shoes and socks much.
Andre McArdle, 13, who plays Annie, "loves clothes" she says, and the Annie dress is "pretty out," which in her lingo means in line with what she likes to wear. So's the red curly wig, which strikes her as a mix of Barbra Streisand and an Afro.
"She's one of the 'people' I like; Majors hairdo with a curling iron as she talks about her own clothes. She likes jeans with high rise waistlines; gauchos and three-piece suits, gussied up Dorrisa (of Miami) dresses and espadrilles with heels or Earth shoes.
The shoes for Annie in the play were th product of a search by Aldrege for the perfect white shoe, an "updated Mary Jane." She found only two pairs at Saks Fifth Avenue, and Capezio doesn't make them anymore. "Children's feet grow so fast that in about three months their feet are going to hurt," warns Aldrege. "I don't know what we're going to do then."
Betsy Daniels, the designer for the childrenwear label Shutterbug, has the Little Orphan Annie comic strip on the bulletin board over her desk. "She's one of the 'people' I like; Mickey Mouse is another," Daniels said. "No characters but people."
Occasionally Daniels revs up an Orphan Annie dress. A couple of years ago it was a black dress with white collar and hand cuffs. It sold very well, which surprised Daniels a bit because of its color.
She's planning another Annie dress, but this time as sportswear. It will be all in red, with a red denim trouserscut skirt, red V-neck sweater, white shirt and a web belt with the words "Arf Arf" woven through.
Leapin' lizards, it's bound to be a best seller than even Andrea McArdle will wear.