Little black gown got a real workout

Glitter: Hollywood revealed its tasteful side, and lots less skin, in subdued shades of silk, satin and lace

The Fashions

March 25, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Helen Hunt, Renee Zellweger and Marisa Tomei led the posse of A-list actresses who showed up in simple black gowns. The evening's stunners tended to be feminine and flattering instead of revealing and risque.

And obscure fashion statements like Bjork's swan frock from last year were noticeably absent.

As Hollywood's glitterati sashayed down the red carpet at the 74th Academy Awards last night, the plethora of gorgeous ballgowns and ooh-la-la slinky dresses gave some hint that things have crept back to normal in post-Sept. 11 Tinseltown. However, with most nominees and presenters showing up in black, white or muted shades like nude and champagne, the mood of the night remained subdued, respectful and, for the most part, classy.

Which is not to say boring.

"The designs are exquisite," said Linda Arroz, a Los Angeles style consultant who has weighed in on fashion do's and don'ts on shows like Good Morning America and NBC's The Other Half.

"Did you see the back of Sharon Stone's dress?" Arroz asked, referring to the fringed gown that dipped dramatically to display the actress' rear cleavage. "That's no ordinary black dress - nobody's wearing an ordinary black dress. The designers have just gone all out this year."

Particularly memorable in black were Reese Witherspoon in a beautiful Valentino dress with lacy capped sleeves and a delicate scalloped neckline and Helen Hunt in a sleek, satin Gucci gown.

Julia Roberts displayed questionable fashion sense with a black, long-sleeved Giorgio Armani gown that featured cut-outs on each side that aired her underarms to the world.

"It was a bit odd," Hollywood stylist Phillip Bloch said in a phone interview just after the ceremony started. "Like, why were they cut out under there?"

Some stars showed up as clear supporters of spring's white-hot trend. Supporting actress nominee Helen Mirren looked elegant in a white Armani long-sleeved gown. And best actress nominee Sissy Spacek tossed aside her usually frumpy duds and arrived in a pristine long white jacket.

Some prominent stars veered away from black and white but didn't go far. Jennifer Lopez left her see-throughs at home this year and came in a corseted, champagne Versace dress with a small, girly bow at her bosom. A Beautiful Mind star and best supporting actress winner Jennifer Connelly was less striking in a nude Balenciaga dress that not only made her look pale but also appeared ill-fitting, pulling her body down at the bust-line and giving her the unfortunate appearance of a premature sag.

For those who opted for a full-departure from the sedate, there were a few gorgeous standouts. Cameron Diaz went with a kimono-style Emanuel Ungaro gown with fluttering long sleeves and a dramatic red floral pattern.

And the night's clear winner was Halle Berry.

For her, Berry's stylist Bloch picked out a burgundy Elie Saab gown with a sheer, sleeveless top with strategically placed embroidered flora.

"It was the most amazing dress I'd ever seen," said Bloch, who also served as a red carpet analyst for CNN last night. "Embroidery is very in now and I love the sheerness, which made it sexy and modern. I just wanted her to look like a winner, to feel like a princess and be real proud and feel comfortable."

In the spouse category, Denzel Washington's wife, Pauletta, sparkled in a lovely orchid Carmen Marc Valvo gown with tiny pleats that raced down the bodice.

On the other end of the significant-other spectrum was Paul McCartney's fiancee, Heather Mills, who showed up in an ensemble that clearly rebelled against this year's theme of simple glamour, Mills' black lace harem get-up bared more midriff than even Britney Spears usually does. Gwyneth Paltrow bared almost as much with her Christian Lacroix dress that basically was a sheer tank top paired with a ballgown skirt. It was hard to figure out which was worse - Gwynnie's racoon eye makeup or evidence that she badly needed a push-up bra.

But no one came closer to Bjork's fowl pas than Sally Kirkland, who donned a taupe metal dress that reportedly came with a push-button device that moved the ruffles around her frame.

Although most actresses stayed with black, their personal style came through in small ways - from chandelier earrings to interesting hairdos. Jennifer Lopez added a tinge of Valley of the Dolls sex appeal to her outfit with her poufed-up hair and Helen Hunt's soft waves gave her a relaxed, wind-blown look.

"It's a variation from years past when all the ladies looked alike," Arroz said. "They would all pull their hair back and it was like a runway show. This year ... they're being more themselves and expressing themselves, which is the true American spirit."

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