Front Row: Character References by Tracey
ROLE PLAY Tracey Ullman as Miuccia Prada.
By ERIC WILSON
Published: June 3, 2009
THE voice on Tracey Ullman’s answering machine was unmistakable.
“Hello, it’s D.V.F. You have no excuse this year, Tracey. Call me back.”
Repeating this message the other day, Ms. Ullman, the actress and comedian, put on an impersonation of Diane Von Furstenberg’s distinctive honey-dipped-frog drawl that was so pitch perfect it was hard to tell for certain that she hadn’t just hit the play button. It was uncanny, really, but this will not surprise followers of “Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union” series on Showtime.
On an episode this season, Ms. Ullman appeared in one skit as Donna Karan, designing new robes for the Supreme Court justices, and in another as Miuccia Prada, showing a collection inspired by the pastel prairie dresses worn by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (“Viva polygamy,” she says at the end of the show.)
Ms. Ullman’s proclivity for spoofing the designer community and its oddball characters is largely rooted in her admiration for fashion. She is a big collector of Claire McCardell, one of the originators of the American fashion industry, and can casually drop into a conversation references to Christian Lacroix’s financial troubles, Iris Apfel’s eccentric style and the insistence of fashion magazines to churn out issues about how to dress for your age.
“I love the idea of how to look good in your 30s and your 40s,” she said. “And when you get to your 70s, they all just give you this beautiful big hood to wear, a silk bag with a grosgrain ribbon from Jil Sander.”
Her interest in style, and her irreverent wit, led Ms. Von Furstenberg to ask her to host the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards on June 15. The crowd can be tough, as Simon Doonan of Barneys New York can attest after insulting André Leon Talley’s turban last year. But Ms. Ullman was not yet sure if she would be taking aim at designers who might be in the room. She was more tempted, she said, by exploring how those designers familiar with the fading era of New York society are adapting to the modern world of invented celebrities.
“You can imagine,” Ms. Ullman said, “Oscar de la Renta being shown a picture of Lauren Conrad, and saying, ‘Oh, if only we can get her to hold our purse!’ ”