It is a look that is bound to grow on you, this supersize T-shirt by James Berry.
In St. Tropez they wear them over bikinis, monokinis or nothing at all.
In Hollywood they wear them over longjohns for roller disco.
It's your basic, all-cotton T-shirt, size 60 (the biggest size made) and decorated with Berry's handscreened designs.
Berry, 33, is an artist and photographer who was going to the Cannes Film Festival last year to photograph for a book and brought along 100 of his super-size T-shirts silk-screened with a director's chair and an umbrella. Those hundred sold in a couple of days, says Berry, who since then has sold 30,000 to 40,000 more in Europe and England.
His inspiration for the huge, one-size-only shirt was the Egyptian gallabia, he says. The appeal is comfort, wit and versatility. "Stand in front of a mirror," Berry says, "and you can shape them into any kind of dress you want."
He has seen his fantasy costume worn as a dress, knotted at the hem, belted or equipped with a draw-string, worn "strapless" (by pulling the neckhole over the head and shoulder) and even worn upside down -- as shorts. Men wear them too.
Berry -- who won an award at the Cannes festival for the script he wrote at age 19 for the movie "Pilgrimage" -- made the gift scarves for the opening of the costume exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's his private salute to Diana Vreeland, special consultant to those shows, who "is a great supporter of fashion as an art" says Berry. For the most recent show -- Diaghilev: Costumes and Designs of the Ballets Russes -- he handmade 500 ostrich-plume fans.
Bianca Jagger and Cher are among those who wear another Berry creation, the bright red "Vreeland" sweatshirt decorated with a gold star on the front and a very athletic-looking Vreeland silk-screened on the back.(Vreeland owns and dispenses all that are made.)
His designs are always handscreened. "I've tried them machine made and there is no comparison," Berry says. "And besides, I want to encourage the art of handscreening." His subject matter is often topical. The first T-shirt (in normal sizes) was inspired by Kahoutek -- with a silver comet across the front. The current crop of shirts, which come either plain or with a drawstring at the hip, are based on themes including China, the American flag, the Texas flag ("It's a separate country," Berry says, laughing), fruits and landscapes. Bloomingdale's, Lord & Taylor, Neiman-Marcus and Saks-Jandel carry them here.
When the Fair Street museum reopens in Nantucket, Berry's photographs from Egypt will be the opening show.