At first glance, with their identical windswept blonde tresses, high cheekbones and Malibu-blue eyes, the two seem like matching bookends from separate generations. But their sex-symbol looks aren't the only thing that actress and former Mamas and Papas singer Michelle Phillips, 52, and Baywatch's sultry Gena Lee Nolin, 24, have in common: When it comes to fashion, both women pinch pennies 'til they scream.
Nolin, who hit it off with Phillips several months ago at a Palm Beach fund-raiser, is learning how to accessorize from a pro. "I like to knock my fancy clothes off the pedestal," says Phillips, showing off her tiny, beaded flower earrings, "Fifty cents at the Pic 'N' Save."
Another case in point: the respective jelly sandals that the women bought this summer. "I paid $4.99 at Payless," Nolin says proudly, referring to her pair. "One-dollar-ninety-nine," retorts Phillips, "in Chinatown!"
Unlike Phillips, Nolin occasionally splurges, as she did recently for her first $2,200 Giorgio Armani suit. "I was shaking when I wrote the check," she admits. But Phillips has a better idea: Get on a series where you covet the costumes. "I won't pay $5,000 for a dress," she says, explaining that most of her pricier duds are wardrobe pieces bought on deep discount after her stints on Malibu Shores and Knots Landing. Okay, Nolin says, she'll try that. Until then, "all I get are bins of bikinis!"
Faizon love & Robert Townsend
They've worked together since actor-director Robert Townsend cast standup comic Faizon Love in his 1993 film Meteor Man, They often go to Hollywood premieres and comedy clubs together. But the costars of the WB network's Parenthood rarely shop together. The lanky townsend, 39, takes the Armani-Versace route in Beverly Hills, while Love, 28, scours Wilshire Boulevard's Rochester Big and Tall shop for leather jackets and Jhane Barnes single-breasted suits. "He likes some of the things I pick," says Love, "but he would never wear them. He's more like, hey, I'm a millionaire. I'm more like, hey, I'm having fun."
Townsend and Love find it easy to cast aside their differences, though, when they get rid of their unwanted attire. Three or four times a year, they drive to one of L.A.'s neediest neighborhoods and scatter boxes of castoffs on Fifth and Town Streets. "People really heed clothes downtown in the cold in the winter," says Townsend. But Love's charity stops at his feet. He buys a pair of shoes a week. "I just told my cleaning lady I need to get another place to store them all," he says.
Carlene Carter, Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan
When they hit the road in May for the first all-female tour in country music history, these second-generation Nashville stars relished their individual styles. "Lorrie is known for a glamor look," says Pam Tillis, 39, daughter of singer Mel. "Carlene's kind of the rock-and-roll cheerleader, and I'm more contemporary country." But the divas, who shopped for matching Harley-Davidson motorcycle boots on their July concert stop in New York City, didn't know how much they really had in common. Carlene Carter, 40, daughter of June Carter and stepdaughter of Johnny Cash, worried that her micromini costumes might clash with what she imagined would be Tillis's and Morgan's safer looks. "I thought, 'I'm gonna have to really get with this country thing,' " says Carter, who likes to accessorize on the cheap at Target stores. "But it turns out they are just as funky as I am." Tillis, whose current wardrobe staple is mariachi-inspired pants by the Mexican-born designer Manuel, was similarly surprised. "I was like, 'I'm going to go for subtle,' " she says. "But after getting out on tour with these girls, I went 'Nah!' It's like the gauntlet's been thrown down." On one night, Tillis and Morgan both showed up in blue satin shirts. "It's always fun to watch everybody come out," says Morgan, 37, an Armani aficionada and daughter of the late Grand Ole Opry star George Morgan, "because you're like, 'What do you have on? What shoes? Oh, I hate you!' "
Caryl Kristensen & Marilyn Kentz
You've really got to go beneath the surface to find out what makes Caryl Kristensen's personal style different from that of her friend Marilyn Kentz. But when you do...there it is. "We're going for nothing but function here," says Caryl, revealing her preference for strictly-by-Jockey white cotton underthings. Marilyn, on the other hand, swears she's into the sexy stuff—"G-strings and satin panties. I'm a Victoria's Secret girl." Short of their skivvies, though, the pair, whose 13-year friendship has spanned a defunct series. The Mommies, as well as their current ABC talk show, Caryl & Marilyn: Real Friends, are of one mind about wearables. "Anything that doesn't show stretch marks is a good thing," says Kristensen, 35. "And we generally find anything studded offensive." The same holds for that "matching-from-head-to-toe thing," adds Kentz, 49. "And clothing with any kind of piping is a major Don't." Whenever they need an emotional lift, the two, who live with their respective families in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, raid the malls together. And when one is in need of fashion advice, the other pulls no punches. "She likes the short skirts," says Kristensen, eyeing her friend. "At a certain point, somebody's got to speak to her about this."
Kamau Holloway & Brian Austin Green
So what does a white boy with a TV series know about dressing like a funkified rapper from the hood? Plenty, when the boy is Beverly Hills, 90210's Brian Austin Green. Last year, when Green, 23, took a career turn to record his first hip-hop album. One Stop Carnival, he invited rapper Kamau Holloway, 20, to perform a few tracks and wound up taking wardrobe lessons from a master. Holloway, says Green, "is the MacGyver of outfits. He can put them together out of nothing He could have a roll of toilet paper and some tinfoil, and he'll end up throwing together a dope outfit." Like Holloway, Green now has amassed a wardrobe of Hilfiger, Perry Ellis and Guess? sportswear—as well as some 30 pairs of Mike and Adidas shoes.
Holloway has also inspired Green to new stylistic heights. "Sometimes I'll gear up a little more than necessary to follow his lead," says Green. "If you're going out somewhere and this guy is in the full head-to-toe matching, I can't just have the T-shirt and jeans. I need to throw on the extras."
Such as? "His G-string, his lingerie," says Holloway, laughing. Seriously, there is one reason that Holloway doesn't ever want to see Green leaving the house looking less than cool: The babes are always watching, says Holloway, and "you don't want your homeboy killing your game."
Susan Feniger & Mary Sue Milliken
In the kitchen, the two Mexican-style chefs mesh together like rice and beans. Dressed in color-coordinated jackets for their TV Network cooking show. Too Hot Tamales, and at the Border Grill, the popular Santa Monica restaurant that they co-own, Mary Sue Milliken, 38, and Susan Feniger, 43, seem to divvy up tasks telepathically. After all, they've been friends since 1978, when they were the only women working in the kitchen of Chicago's Le Perroquet.
One look inside their closets, though, and you know the two are whipping up wardrobes from different recipes. "We're opposite in taste," says Feniger, who rarely wears skirts and prefers the classic look of "a great navy pantsuit" or the simplicity of small T-shirts, vests and pegged pants. Milliken is partial to avant-garde fashions (but never in black, her least-favorite color). "In 18 years I've only seen Mary Sue in jeans once," says Feniger.
Street clothes have become an increasingly bigger ingredient in the partners' lives. "In the early '80s, you rarely saw us out of uniform," says Milliken. "We even wore them to movies," adds Feniger. But Milliken, who has been married to architect Josh Schweitzer for 12 years and has a 6-year-old son, says, "I'm bored with chefs' clothes. I'm more interested in dressing for myself." Feniger also looks forward to "the ceremony of going home, getting out of my chef clothes, taking a bath, then changing to go out." But, she says, "I still love getting up in the morning and putting on a uniform."
Shalom Harlow & Amber Valletta
Four years ago they were rookie models rooming together in Paris with no furniture and just a couple of go-see outfits between them. Now both 22, the best friends have appeared on a total of 100 magazine covers and are cohosts of MTV's House of Style. Shalom takes the fashion lead. "I'm the adventurous one," says the native of Oshawa, Canada, whose eclectic closet includes neo-hippie clothes from a London store called Voyage as well as vintage floral blouses, lace tops, '50s polka-dotted skirts and Chanel skirts that she wears with flip-flops.
Shalom's spirited approach has liberated her more buttoned-down buddy. "When you see someone look good in patterns and bright colors, you know you can wear them too," says Tulsa-bred Amber, adding that Shalom has helped her become "a happier, more easygoing person." Amber favors short sheaths (she has got some from Azzedine Alaïa and Helmut Lang) and skinny tops and pants, but she also collects quirky vintage clothes from the '40s. The two now live three blocks apart in Manhattan and often buy each other little gifts (angels for Amber, butterflies for Shalom). Amber makes it a rule never to proffer criticism. "If Shalom likes what she's wearing, that's all that matters," she says. But Shalom takes a different tack. "Clothing is easy," she says. "It's the other kind of advice that's hard to give."