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Red, White and Hues Redux

On the runway to the big show, vintage styles and modern variations boldly step forward. Lighter colors appear with classic and quirky touches.


It's hard not to catch a fame buzz when Hollywood's elite stars do their best to create head-turning glamour, even if it's a sometimes old-fashioned version dished out years ago during Hollywood's golden age. It still wears well.

The evidence? Look no further than Marcia Gay Harden in a burgundy Randolph Duke strapless gown and stole. "I once played Ava Gardner, and she inspired me," said Harden, who won the best supporting actress Oscar for her role in "Pollock."

In her vintage lemon chiffon Jean Desses strapless gown, Renee Zellweger looked a bit like a blond Rita Hayworth, while Juliette Binoche's Jean-Paul Gaultier corset dress, marcel waves and pearl swags could have come from a 1920s costume drama.

Not all actresses took their cues from the past. Even though best actress winner Julia Roberts wore a vintage Valentino gown, the clean, white satin stripes down the front and back gave it a timeless look. Kate Hudson's swingy fringed bolero and beaded silver gown by Chloe designer Stella McCartney jiggled with a fun energy, while Jennifer Lopez gave her couture Chanel ball gown a bit of sexy sizzle when the lights shined right through the chiffon top. Oh that girl!

Last year's Morticia Addams shocker, Angelina Jolie, flouted convention again, but with a classy white Dolce & Gabbana pantsuit. Going for comfort, best supporting nominee Julie Walters wore slim black pants under her sequin-trimmed navy silk tunic.

When you're standing on a sea of red carpet, wearing a red-toned gown can make you disappear, but not if you're Sigourney Weaver in a burgundy couture John Galliano gown dripping at the shoulder with silk flowers and laced naughtily up the sides. "If I get uncomfortable, I can undo it," she joked.

Joan Allen's beaded, coral turtleneck gown by Michael Kors was one of the sleekest on the carpet. "I wanted to be very contemporary for today, because I do a lot of period movies," Allen said.

All that finery brings out the impishness in some people. Enter Bjork, whose swan dress was by Macedonian designer Marjan Pejoski, and "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas" costume designer Rita Ryack, who dressed as Mrs. Claus.

The cast of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" drew on ethnic influences. The black and gold stripes on Michelle Yeoh's sequined cheongsam by Hong Kong designer Barney Cheng were created to resemble a tiger, while co-star Zhang Ziyi's beaded Escada dress recalled Chinese tapestry. Still the sexy outlaw, Chang Chen came shirtless under his leather jacket embossed in a Chinese floral pattern.

Looking every bit the star, a blond Laura Linney in a sleek red Valentino gown said her dress cost "far more" than the salary she received for "You Can Count on Me." "But I would have made that movie for free," she said, as a reminder that big budgets don't always guarantee success--not on the screen and not on the red carpet.

The Oscar arrivals have become the pinnacle of the fantasy-making machine that's supposed to pump adoration and intrigue into sometimes mediocre movie-making. Amid all of the commotion, it's easy to forget that this almost gross display of wealth (most of it borrowed or granted gratis) takes place near USC, in a working-class neighborhood. The Oscars are no longer one contest, but several that have nothing to do with achievement in acting. The race for best actor or actress has been joined by a contest to see who will be the provider of the most expensive gem, the most costly purse, the highest-priced dress and the overall winner of most product endorsements (even Oscar stylist Jessica Paster has linked up with Crest to push its new teeth-whitening strips).

In the week leading up to the ceremony, not just nominees were tempted with such things as a $20,000 Lana Marks handbag and a $2.5-million ring from Rodeo Drive jeweler David Orgell, but suites of expensive jewels landed on nominee-adjacent types, such as entertainment personalities and even local TV reporters who cover the event.

It's no wonder that as the attention to Oscar fashion nears hysterical proportions, men in the past several years have run like a pack of scared penguins to the protection of traditional black tie. A few men were more experimental this year, notably best director winner Steven Soderbergh, in a Prada black silk jacket and champagne shirt, and Willem Dafoe, in a navy-blue notched-collar Prada suit.

Armani regular Samuel L. Jackson recalled Shaft in his sweeping ankle-length tuxedo coat with an ivory satin shirt. Armani once again raked in many followers, including Benjamin Bratt, Ben Affleck, host Steve Martin, original screenplay winner Cameron Crowe, best supporting actor winner Benicio Del Toro, supporting actor nominee Joaquin Phoenix, best director nominee Ang Lee and best actor nominee Ed Harris, whose powder-blue, high-collared satin shirt allowed him to leave his tie at home.


"I put out a call that I wanted a wonderful dress, and I got a beautiful sketch from John [Galliano of Christian Dior]. They made it to order. It makes me feel like Cinderella."

SIGOURNEY WEAVER, describing how she obtained her gown


"I was going to wear my swan, but to me, they're so last year."

STEVE MARTIN, after Bjork performed her Oscar-nominated song



Times staff writer Booth Moore contributed to this story.

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