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Calendar Goes to the Oscars | Fashion

The Parade of Style: Everything but the Guilty Pleasures

March 25, 1997|MIMI AVINS | TIMES FASHION EDITOR

Just because the list of nominees for this year's Academy Awards was heavy with unfamiliar names and actors known more for their work than their wardrobes wasn't any reason to expect glamour to be relegated to the cheap seats at the Shrine Auditorium Monday night.

If anyone doubted that high fashion and Hollywood would rally to make the ceremony worth watching as a fashion show (with the bonus of a few good jokes and some spontaneous emotional outbursts), their fears were allayed when Brenda Blethyn and Joan Allen, two contenders for roles that required frump make-overs, arrived looking like movie stars ready to dazzle.

With gowns that reveal as much of the body as they conceal a favorite of designers this spring, actresses who either could have been or were models chose extravagantly sheer, romantic dresses that were just barely modest enough for prime time. Lauren Holly, Angie Everhart and Jenny McCarthy, all in elaborate confections of lace, chiffon, embroidery, transparent net and velvet by Valentino, represented fantasy style at its extravagant extreme. Winona Ryder's beaded black Chanel couture flapper dress with a flesh-colored lining also showed how the illusion of nudity has slyly crept into evening dress.

Amid all the swirling mermaid hems and sequined, reembroidered lace, there was still a place for elegant simplicity, as proven by gold dust twins Helen Hunt and Goldie Hawn in plain gilded columns by Isaac Mizrahi and Vera Wang, respectively. Holly Hunter's black sheath with sheer black insets by Vera Wang also showed that strategic flashes of skin can be as arresting as indiscriminately scattered glitter.

Since well-known designers have made their mark on the Oscars, how tasteful it's all become! Gone are the eye-rolling mistakes that made viewing the awards a guilty pleasure.

Nicole Kidman always manages to displease some segment of the audience. Her chartreuse satin embroidered gown with tassel trim by John Galliano for Christian Dior couture was sure to rile those with limited tolerance for that difficult color, but her sleek figure-eight chignon was above reproach.

Jada Pinkett's midriff-baring green metal mesh Versace outfit might have been a memorable disaster on the wrong woman, but she carried it off beautifully. Even Juliette Binoche's sweeping cinnamon velvet and satin coat by Sophie Sitbon, which came closest to attaining the kind of Cruella DeVil high drama that can easily crash over the top, looked stunning on the radiant best supporting actress winner.

So it's come to this: Oscar fashion choices too good to hate.

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