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Lessons That Oscar Taught Us


As much of a fashion derby as the Academy Awards ceremony has become, there is still no official category for Most Outstanding Gown, no sequin-clad Barbie statuette for the best-dressed to take home--or naked little Elmo as booby prize for the worst. If there were, it would have been tough to call a winner on Monday night.

With the help of some of the world's most talented designers, many of the actresses looked wonderful, so many in fact that no single breathtaking dress stood head and buffed shoulders above the rest. Nor were there fashion train wrecks. (Think vintage Cher, Geena Davis in taffeta or Kim Basinger in her own creation.)

But there were lessons for the avid style student. Among them:

Simple Is Good: Sigourney Weaver wore a plain, bias cut column of burgundy satin by Narcisco Rodriguez for Cerruti, with no clunky jewelry or goopy hairdo cluttering things up. Kristin Scott Thomas, on the other hand, chose an aging, black Christian Lacroix ball gown that was a chaotic mess of gathers, pleats, buttons, and ruffles--and all on a woman whose Audrey Hepburn gamin potential has been noted lately.

Color Is Good: No one in basic black looked as pretty as Lauren Holly did in beige chiffon sprinkled with pastel velvet flowers by Valentino, Susan Sarandon in soft celadon green by Donna Karan, or winner Juliette Binoche in a dress and coat of rich cinnamon brown by Sophie Sitbon. The coat could have come from the closet of the wicked queen in Snow White, but the color was spectacular.

Bare is Good, but So Is Covered Up: Sandra Bullock chose a nude chiffon slip dress paved with multicolored beading by Richard Tyler, showing that even without exploding cleavage, a bare look can still dazzle. Jodie Foster took the opposite route, covering up in an ice-blue Giorgio Armani beaded coat dress over organza trousers, looking better than she has in years.

Jewels Can Kill: Just because the country's major jewelers loan mega-baubles for the night doesn't mean an actress can't just say no. The stars of "Secrets & Lies," Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Brenda Blethyn, arrived together, a tumor of a diamond manacling each of their necks. How much more tasteful Juliette Binoche looked, with a delicate amber necklace that enhanced her gown, or Nicole Kidman, with dramatic drop earrings in keeping with the Chinoiserie theme of her embroidered sheath by John Galliano for Christian Dior.

Don't Forget Your Comb Out: Someone should have told Courtney Love that the sporty daytime hairdo needs a little spiffing-up to go with a slinky satin evening gown. But the hair aberration of the evening was a rash of stiff doughnut curls. (Did the stylist's assistant go for a smoke instead of doing the brush-out?) Helen Hunt, Andie MacDowell, Patricia Arquette and Jenny McCarthy all had 'dos that looked like works in progress.

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