The Reviews Are In

Many celebrities turned out in four-star style for this year's Oscars. Here are the blockbusters and the bombs.

Focus On Fashion

March 31, 2002|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,Sun Staff

The Oscar red carpet traditionally has been the backdrop for the glamorous and the ridiculous, the style-setters and the fashionably challenged, the covered up and, well, Jennifer Lopez.

This year, however, there was a common theme -- taste and restraint, with a touch of old Hollywood sophistication. Instead of plunging necklines and displayed derrieres, there were champagne ruffles, scrumptious lace and wispy chiffons.

"People wanted to do glamour but nobody wanted it to go over the borderline between glamour and vulgarity," said Valerie Steele, acting director for the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. "Instead of plunging decolletages and dripping diamonds, you had lots of shoulders and low backs."

For those taking notes on red-carpet sightings, here are a few trends that emerged:

* A return to elegance

From Glenn Close to Reese Witherspoon, Helen Mirren to Kirsten Dunst, stars toed the conservative line and picked old-time glamour for their fashion statements.

The details were key in making the looks current. Mirren's angelic dress came with a glorious, sparkling train. And Witherspoon's black lace creation had sweet cap sleeves and just enough ornate beading to add oomph sans gaudiness.

* Muted tones

For actresses who had appeared in the many pre-Oscar awards ceremonies in basic black, hues like champagne, pale pink and nude offered a fresh palette. "We saw Jennifer Connelly in black for every other awards show," said Tom Julian, fashion analyst. "That's why she totally went for this color. It's the same thing with Nicole [Kidman]. She had been in black all season and she shows up in pink, which is very feminine."

* Lesser names are more

Sure, the red carpet was littered with the customary Versaces, Armanis and Valentinos, but some gowns that night were by designers whose names drew a blank. Marisa Tomei's strapless gown bore the label Jurgen Simonsen, and fashion plate Will Smith went with a sleek suit by Ozwald Boateng. And Halle Berry's breathtaking gown with the burgundy train? Its creator was a little-known Middle Eastern designer named Elie Saab.

* Natural, soft makeup

With a few garish exceptions, celebrities chose natural looks to go with their retro-glam gowns. Kate Winslet, Halle Berry and Renee Zellweger were just a few big names who went fresh-faced.

* Wavy and loose hairdos

Hair swept up or pulled back with a Grace Kelly classicism usually is the 'do de nuit at the Oscars. This year, however, tousled, loose and wavy were in. Helen Hunt looked sleek in a black Gucci number with her hair cascading in layered waves. Mulholland Drive's Naomi Watts, who came in a crisscross-topped Gucci dress, let her hair down to tickle her shoulders. And Cameron Diaz paired her kimono-style Emanuel Ungaro with hair that looked teased, tangled and befitting a woman just emerging from the boudoir.

Even actresses who pulled their hair back had some loose action. "It was like having the bun but with the little spray of hair coming out," Julian said.


* Sharon Stone

She's set fashion trends galore on the red carpet, like the year she wore a Gap T-shirt with an Armani suit. This year, however, Sharon Stone's black dress with a sheer top conjured the spirit of Nancy Kerrigan's Olympic outfits. "She looked so old-fashioned, with that rigid bra top and that fringe," FIT's Steele said.

* Sally Kirkland

A metal alloy dress with a panel that raised in front like the curtain going up on a Broadway show? It's hard to decide whether to laud Sally Kirkland or banish her to a fashion asylum.

* Gwyneth Paltrow

We hope Oscar officials called the LAPD last week, because it's clear that someone kidnapped the usually glam Gwyneth Paltrow and sent a tasteless impostor to the ceremony in her place.

What other explanation can there be for the fashion abomination that showed up claiming to be our dear Gwynnie?

Paltrow's mistake was a three-parter. First, there was the slate-gray Alexander McQueen dress, which incongruously threw together a sheer, ruched tank top and a large ball-gown skirt with a long train. Then there was the thick, dark eye makeup that brought to mind startled nocturnal creatures. Finally, there was the single Heidi braid wrapped around her head.

"The dress was weird," Steele said. "Simultaneously frumpy and risque? It's hard to pull off."

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