Fashion flies high - and very low

Fashion: Some celebrities got dressed up for the occasion. Others deserve a dressing-down.

March 26, 2001|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Oscar history is filled with unforgettable moments - Roberto Benigni ecstatically leaping over chairs to accept his award and Gwyneth Paltrow joyfully sobbing when she won, just to name a few.

And last night was no different, for it raised a question likely to puzzle audiences for years to come: What would possess a sane woman to step out of the house in a dress featuring the head of a swan tossed over one shoulder?

In fact, the 73rd awards ceremony had barely gotten under way before fashionistas began hurling barbs at singer-actress Bjork's decision to invoke thoughts of dead fowl with her Oscar night garb.

"It's too much," sniffed style maven Elsa Klensch, who singled out Bjork's dress in a phone interview. "It's over the top, and I don't like it."

Sure, awards galore were handed out last night, but some of the heated conversations around water-coolers across the world today probably will center on who wore what to the Oscars - and what Bjork was thinking.

And the celebs who strode down the red carpet last night offered plenty to talk about.

The evening proved to be big for European designers. Prominent nominees who went with creations from the other continent included Tom Hanks, who looked sleek in Gucci, and Juliette Binoche in bad-boy French designer John Paul Gaultier. Others who went European included Annette Bening, who looked glam in an Armani dress with lacquered black sequins and Catherine-Zeta Jones, who stunned crowds in a black Versace gown with a sexy, corseted top.

Less stunning was Kate Hudson, who showed up in a slate-gray ensemble by pal Stella McCartney. Hudson's hair was romantically swept up and her simple gown with delicate straps looked like it might have been gorgeous - if only it weren't shrouded by a mini cape with a long fringe.

"She was lovely," Eleanor Lambert, famous fashion publicist, said diplomatically from her New York apartment. "But only her hair."

Klensch was more direct in her assessment of Hudson's ensemble: "What was it?"

Thankfully, however, the awful ensembles on the red carpet were few in number. Tasteful splashes of color dominated the unofficial fashion runway last night, with Best Actress nominee Laura Linney in a sharp, bright red gown by Valentino and Joan Allen sparkling in a warm orange Michael Kors creation.

Sting's wife Trudie Styler brought a breath of spring to the ceremony with an ivory Jean Paul Gaultier gown delicately embroidered with flowers and butterflies. And Sigourney Weaver looked striking in a red, one-shouldered Christian Dior gown that had a strap trimmed with a bouquet of silk flowers.

Lest we get carried away with too much talk of appearances, fashion commentator Joan Rivers provided an important reminder that looks aren't everything.

Rivers looked spectacular in a black Vera Wang dress with long, sheer sleeves. But during her pre-Oscar show, she somehow addressed such tasteless topics as irritable bowel syndrome and mad cow disease and proved one thing: Designer clothing and borrowed jewelry can't buy class.

The Noteworthy

Red Carpet Winners

Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt

Hollywood's It-girl and her heartthrob beau showed up in natty black and white outfits that made them look just too cute. Roberts went with a beautiful vintage Valentino black gown that had a slimming white stripe dramatically running down the middle, and Bratt matched her with his sharp tux paired with a crisp white shirt and white tie.

Joan Allen

Tongues began to wag in the fashion world when Joan Allen was spotted in the front row of designer Michael Kors show in New York on Valentine's Day - barely 24 hours after the announcement of her Best Actress nomination. And Allen confirmed speculations of a partnership with Kors on Oscar night when she strode down the red carpet looking stunning in a beaded, orange Kors gown with a mock turtleneck to accentuate her lovely long neck.

Juliette Binoche

Binoche chose a red velvet gown by French designer Sophie Sitbon in 1996 when she won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "The English Patient." So she may have chosen to go with another French designer for luck last night. Whatever the reason, her choice was memorable. John Paul Gaultier's black dress with a laced-up corset back made Binoche the picture of beauty even without the long strands of pearls and her chic, flapper hair-do.

Red Carpet Losers

Kate Hudson

Hudson's simple slate gray gown with delicate twisted straps framed her slender figure magnificently. But what were she and Stella McCartney thinking when they decided to top the gorgeous gown with a short coat with a high mandarin collar and a fringe?

Michelle Yeoh

Yeoh probably was going for old-time Asian glamour by choosing to wear a dress cut like a loose-fitting cheongsam. But its modern details were alarming - sequined, fat chevron stripes in black and gold? Sexy tiger she was not.

Jennifer Lopez

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