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At the Mercy of the Mercury

The women are glad to mostly leave behind heat-magnet black for eye-popping prints, color and comfort. Still, the look is simple elegance.


The calendar said it was the first day of fall, but the stars on the red carpet at Sunday's Emmy Awards turned out dressed for spring in colorful, billowing gowns. That was a good--and cool--thing considering the sweltering heat outside the Shrine Auditorium.

Talk about working up a sweat. As television's biggest stars strolled into the Shrine, many were glad they weren't wrapped in heat-magnet black while others who chose the color were happy their outfits somehow compensated for being at the mercy of the mercury.

"I am so thrilled to be wearing this dress. Look, it's got built in air-conditioning," said singer and "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul about her black jersey Nicole Bakti gown with triangular cutouts. Her eyelids lined with gold glitter, Abdul said she mostly wanted a gown that "was understated and classic--but with an edge. And AC."

She wasn't the only one. Many actresses, such as Angela Bassett, chose gowns that were more about beautiful eye-popping prints, color and comfort than heavy mega-wattage dazzle. Sequined sheaths were practically no-shows as were overly made-up faces and outrageous coifs. Instead, the look was simple elegance, maybe a lesson learned from last year's Emmys when the marching orders were to dress down--respectable instead of spectacle--in a post-Sept. 11 world.

While the women bragged about finding their comfort zones in their ensembles, the men, mostly dressed in black Giorgio Armani, Hugo Boss and Gucci, could hardly wait to get inside the chilled auditorium.

"I'm really happy I'm not wearing black," said Mary-Louise Parker in a long yellow flower print, spaghetti-strap Carolina Herrera gown with a dangerously high left-side slit. "Mrs. Herrera had made a dress for me before which is why I'm wearing her again. I had the designer picked out before the dress. It's perfect for this weather."

Penny Johnson Jerald of the show "24," selected her pink Badgley Mischka gown guessing that "it would be a hot day" and struck a pose in the unfussy but striking spaghetti-strap number. Also lighting up the red carpet in color was Cloris Leachman in an orange-satin Sevilla gown. "Hurray, it's sleeveless!" Leachman shouted happily. "Otherwise I'd be sweating it out right now."

An obviously pregnant Jane Kaczmarek in a black chantilly lace Heidi Kaczenski creation, said she was holding up OK in the heat. Standing by her side was husband Bradley Whitford in a Ralph Lauren tuxedo.

Nearby was another mother-to-be, Cynthia Nixon, who thanked her designer, Chaiken, for dressing her in an airy red column gown with a slight train. "Plus this gown matches my hair," she said about her red spiky do. Lauren Ambrose, another red-head, selected a purple Halston gown, knotted in the front "because I thought it looked good with my hair."

Kim Cattrall thought the skintight Herve Leger dress on her svelte body just looked good. It did. "This is pretty subdued for Samantha, don't you think?" said Cattrall about her "Sex and the City" character. "But it's very me."

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