Designer Cheek They're skimpy, they're sporty. The Eagles' cheerleaders' uniforms are hot couture - designed by the famed Vera Wang. Eagles' cheerleaders' new Vera Wang look sports lots of skin

Posted: September 09, 2003

The new Eagles' cheerleaders' uniforms, unveiled at the Linc last night, show a little cheek and a whole lot of bust. But that's OK; this is football, and it's all about getting physical.

As modern and stylish as the team's slick new stadium in South Philadelphia, the green-and-white, bathing-suitlike ensembles were designed by Vera Wang, bridal-gown designer to the rich and famous - and a close pal of Christina Lurie, wife of Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.

"I was trying to marry athletic performance and sex appeal," Wang said on the turf at Lincoln Financial Field last night, looking very unfootballish in a black bobbin-knit skirt and tan-and-black sweater set.

Are they sexy enough? Well, the Birds may rival the Dallas Cowboys for title of hottest cheerleader garb. But keeping these booty shorts on the respectable side of the modesty line may be more than the laws of gravity and Lycra can stand.

"These outfits are highly athletic. It was a challenge to make sure the pieces were sexy and they wouldn't fall apart," Wang said.

The 54-year-old designer started working on the uniforms three years ago at the request of the Luries. They wanted the unveiling of the outfits to coincide with the gala opening of the Linc.

Last night, after the light show and just before kickoff of the Eagles' season-opening game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the cheerleaders ran around the perimeter of the field shaking silver-and-green pom-poms in their summer ensembles: white, low-rise, boy-cut shorts with black and green stripes up the side. The white top is a sports bra with ample push-up designed to coax as much cleavage over the top as possible. A thick black band runs across the bottom.

What's skimpy to the average fan is comfortable to the cheerleaders.

"We practice in a sports bra and shorts all the time," said Amanda Morris, 24, a buxom redhead who got her first look at the new outfits last night. "We work hard on our bodies and we want to show them off."

But the scanty top and shorts is just one of the looks. The uniforms are really a bunch of multi-seasonal separates designed to keep the cheerleaders warm in frigid months and to show off their assets when it's warm.

In October, the short-shorts will be replaced with a black mini or black lowrider spandex pants. Wang developed a black, one-of-a-kind cut-off sweater to wear over the sports bra for extra warmth. And for those bitterly cold December days and nights, she designed a white spandex bodysuit.

"This was an education for me," said Wang, whose previous experiences in the sports world include designing five skating outfits for Michelle Kwan and one for Nancy Kerrigan.

"I had to take into consideration climate and movement. I usually don't work with spandex too much unless it is inside a dress," Wang said.

The designer said she was interested in developing a line of sportswear for women tennis and golf players.

The financial specifics of the fashion-meets-sports deal are hush-hush, but Christina Lurie said it was a win-win situation for Wang and the Eagles.

And for the cheerleaders, the uniforms are yet another marketing opportunity.

The women in the 40-plus-member squad are exploring opportunities as stars independent of the muscled players they do flips for, said Barbara Zaun, the Eagles' cheerleader director.

Last year, the cheerleaders took their first international trip, to a U.S. military base in Bosnia. They also performed in Times Square.

And in January, fans can buy the 2004 edition of the successful Eagles Cheerleader Lingerie Calendar, which shows the squad in lacy Victoria's Secret-type garb.

"We want our cheerleaders to be the most elite," Zaun said. "Image is a factor in attaining that status. The uniform contributes to it in a glamorous, sexy and athletic way."

Let's not forget revealing.

The Eagles aren't the only NFL squad to round up new duds for their cheerleaders. The Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions were among the other nearly half-dozen teams to spruce up their look.

Owners say it's time for the women to have a new look, but fashion pundits speculate that they are trying to add cheerleaders' fashion to the marketing of professional sports-team paraphernalia. Philadelphia's Mitchell & Ness, for example, has made a killing replicating sports jerseys, and there might be money in vintage pom-pom shakers.

The Eagles won't be in the market yet, Christina Lurie said. The new uniforms aren't vintage, and the team is going to hold on to the rights to the sparkly 1980s-era ones for now.

"That's something we'd have to really think about," she said. "That won't happen for quite a while."

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com

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