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Bare and Spare


By day, the women of prime-time television toil as faux nurses, cops and investigators of paranormal phenomena. On Sunday night, the most coveted role was that of show-stopping glamour puss.

The winner was Helen Hunt, who spent most of last season on "Mad About You" wearing a prosthetic pregnant belly on camera but shone as bright as a statuette in a slender, spaghetti-strapped silver gown by Laurel, a German label that doesn't even mention its designer's name. The fact that she looked fabulous in a dress off the rack should have been encouraging to women who think that only specially designed gowns can register in a crowd packed with designer originals.

Kim Delaney proved that sleek simplicity still works. Her backless purple satin halter gown, worn without jewelry, didn't need baubles to dazzle. Demi Moore's spectacular navy sequined silk jersey, designed by Norell in the late '60s, was a testament to timeless elegance.

If all the spaghetti straps at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium were tossed into boiling water, then doused with marinara sauce, they'd have made a heaping portion of pasta. Gloria Reuben's barely there black sequined chiffon gown by Cerruti was suspended from skinny cappellini straps.

Sherry Stringfield, who turned her back on "ER" last year, seemed to be repudiating glitz as well, appearing in an unadorned black crepe Valentino gown with delicate straps.

You could almost hear the men dressing for the Emmys whining at home, "Do I have to wear a tuxedo?" Several attempted a compromise by choosing traditional tux jackets but abandoning stiff shirts, studs and bow ties in favor of regular dress shirts and solid ties. That look, adopted by Noah Wyle, Bill Maher, Hector Elizondo and Robert Duvall, scored 7.8 for experimentation but a weak 2.0 for appeal.

Matthew Perry, in a Hugo Boss tuxedo with its own boxy vest, managed to look both well-dressed and innovative. Mel Brooks' dramatic black satin-lined cape and oversized fedora managed to look just innovative.

Gold, silver and bronze were preferred currency--Dana Delany's bronze column gown by Valentino with gold mesh straps, Christine Baranski's short, boat-necked molten silver dress by costumer Robert Turturice, Lisa Kudrow's silver Armani gown overlaid with lace and beads and Peri Gilpin's black Badgley Mischka dress embroidered in silver. But red was the evening's most conspicuous color.

Christine Lahti's bandage dress by Herve Leger with long, tight sleeves of transparent red chiffon and Jane Leeves' sequined, side-slit slip dress from the inaugural Halston Signature collection by Randolph Duke were among the scarlet standouts.

The slits at the sides and center of some of the evening's clingiest gowns were as practical as they were provocative. Although Gillian Anderson looked lovely in a champagne satin gown, its train nearly proved her undoing when she tried to reach the stage.

The hairdos that looked newest were slick buns and chignons. Julia Louis-Dreyfus sported one, as did Kudrow, Fran Drescher and Kristen Johnston, in an unfortunate yellow satin Vera Wang bridesmaid dress with matching stole.

Did Ellen DeGeneres wear a dress? Of course not. Her brown brocade pantsuit matched the stunning beaded chocolate V-neck slink of her companion, Anne Heche. Like the many gowns that revealed as much as they concealed, their outfits showed that the most attractive, most confident women are those with nothing to hide.

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