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Oscar Picks : If Giorgio, Calvin and Vera Were Out of the Picture, a Nominee Might Do Nicely With, Say, Randy Kemper

February 15, 1996|MIMI AVINS

Thirty-nine more shopping days till the Academy Awards. This year's best actress nominees, an uncommonly beautiful and stylish assembly, could consult with the usual designer suspects, a group that includes Giorgio Armani, Vera Wang, Richard Tyler, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Todd Oldham, John Galliano, Gianni Versace and Valentino. And they probably will.

The evening dress of the season, appearing in nearly every collection, is a slender, unadorned column of silk. In addition to an outstanding example of that minimalist genre, we immodestly propose a few other gowns for Hollywood's big night, all created by American designers.

Meryl Streep is seldom seen in strong colors, but Victor Alfaro's irresistible henna ball gown, predicated on simplicity, has a gently defined waistline and a graceful skirt that skims the body. With its slit neckline revealing just a little of the woman within, the elegant dress could be a metaphor for the actress' intriguing persona.

Randy Kemper made his name designing sharp clothes for professional women. Sharon Stone works hard for a living and would do justice to Kemper's cleanly cut one-shoulder matte jersey, a ventilated version of the long slink. We've seen Stone play it Grace Kelly pale, but she looks sensational in black. This sophisticated style ups the bareness quotient, a necessity for a good Oscar presentation.

For Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon jettisoned glamour and played a nun in "Dead Man Walking." That was only a movie. In reality, Sarandon loves glitz, which is amply offered by this glamorous, pale green satin gown. The team of Mark Badgley and James Mischka, masters of elaborate beadwork, varied their theme by shirring a narrow skirt in tiers separated by sparkling Art Deco circles. Whether she wins or not, Sarandon should plan to dance the night away in this dress. It's at its best in motion.

The huge international television audience that tunes into the Academy Awards broadcast would be treated to a dose of pure Americana if Elisabeth Shue appeared in Ralph Lauren's shimmering blue crepe turtleneck gown. What better way to make a sexy choice while erasing all memory of that hooker role in "Leaving Las Vegas"? The youngest of the group, Shue could look like someone's dream prom date if she isn't careful. The understated cool of this assured gown would be lost on a girl; the actress' performance proved she's ready to join the grown-ups.

Everyone knows Emma Thompson is bright and witty, but she's often accused of displaying a dowdy British streak when confronted with a statuette and a podium. Assuming that dressing dull isn't in her genes, Thompson would be a welcome surprise in Bill Blass' nude illusion black lace with mandarin collar and floral applique. It isn't shapeless. It isn't too covered up. It isn't plain. A woman could look like a movie star in this dress, which is really the point, one special night every year.

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