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Style watchers on Oscars 2002

People Magazine and Access Hollywood’s fashion and style guru Steven Cojocaru is gleefully enjoying the sense of panic that’s taken over Industry trendsetters this week: “I think you’re going to see a lot of petrified superstars because at the Oscars the stakes are so high, there’s no margin for error. You don’t want to be this year’s Bjork,” he says.

“I think tastefulness is gonna reign, polished and elegant and glamorous and pretty,” he adds, saying that fashion shenanigans usually take place at other awards shows, not the Oscars. “There’s no messing around. But no matter what, there’s always one ‘loser.’ And who shall get that title? I’m looking forward to it!”

Cojocaru says fashionistas are “chomping at the bit” to dress this year’s crop of nominees because so many of them are beautiful “clotheshorses.” “There’s so much whoring going on this year–and you can quote me on that…[but] I think Paris is going to rule this year. I’m feeling that psychically.”

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Entertainment Tonight anchor Jann Carl not only asks stars on the red carpet what they’re wearing, she gets into the act herself. “I just found out what I’m wearing today! It’s a gown from Claire’s Collections, and it’s navy blue with satin ribbons and lace, and a vintage diamond with a baby blue satin ribbon.” Claire’s Collection is a trendy Hollywood boutique that has provided ultra-glam, body-hugging evening wear from designer label Claire Mezrahi to sleek stars like Halle Berry, Shania Twain, Sandra Bullock and Carl’s ET cohort Mary Hart.

Merle Ginsberg, entertainment editor at W and Women’s Wear Daily, says she expects to see “very, very structured dresses, mostly from Europe. I think you’re not going to see one designer dressing a lot of people. I think you’re going to see more ‘one designer, one actress.’ Everybody picked very specifically one designer and a lot of people asked people to sign exclusivity agreements: ‘If you dress me, you dress no one else.’ The names that you hear on the red carpet will not be your usual names”

“I think it’s going to be very reverent and black and elegant and sexy…Beautiful but respectful,” says Ginsberg, who adds that designers are clamoring to dress Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Connelly and presenter Gwyneth Paltrow. Ginsberg says she has the inside track on who’ll be dressing whom, but, “I promised not to tell, and people are still changing their minds.”

“We’re going to see a lot of people looking for very individual kinds of statements, whether it’s through their jewelry or through their dresses,” said Women’s Wear Daily West Coast Bureau Chief Rose Apodaca Jones, who with Ginsberg hosted a supremely hip pre-Oscar fashion event in a private home that drew top stars like

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Gwyneth Paltrow, Lauren Graham, Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowan, Patricia Arquette and Joaquin Phoenix and designers like Pamela Dennis and Vera Wang. The guests were all serenaded by singer Rufus Wainwright as they checked out millions of dollars in designer diamond jewelry.

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“The Oscars are always a moment for glamour,” Apodaca Jones continues. “But I think that in light of the last two awards shows where people felt they need to show a certain amount of respect for events that happened in our country, it’s definitely OK again to embrace that.”

Patty Fox, the author of the book Star Style at the Academy Awards and last year’s official Oscar fashion coordinator, says international fashion designers send representatives to Los Angeles at Oscar time for the express purpose of getting the stars to wear their gowns, and celebrities often find themselves with 40 to 50 unsolicited frocks to chose from.

Fox, whose book chronicles the history of fashion at the ceremonies and inside tidbits such as how Elizabeth Taylor used to build her Oscar wardrobe first and foremost around her jewels, cites the relationship between Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn as the most famous example of how some designers and fashion industry heads cultivate very close liaisons with the stars.

She adds that years ago, “[Christian Dior head] Bernard Arnault…was very enamored of Nicole Kidman as being the perfect muse.” She also called the pairing of Jodie Foster and Giorgio Armani “a perfect match.” As a result of such symbiotic relationships, she says, “Many times [the designers] design their ready-to-wear collections with that particular star in mind.”

Despite the fact that the red carpet is becoming more and more the couture catwalk, Fox says the Academy specifically decided to attempt to downplay the fashion aspect this year and did not appoint a fashion coordinator out of concern for the national tragedies. But the obsession with style isn’t just going to pack up its Prada bag and go away.

Fox says a dramatic and successful Oscar fashion statement can be used very effectively to help an actress’s career and public profile. “Sometimes the right gown gives someone attention that they didn’t have before.” She adds that some stars “pay more attention to what they wear to the Oscars than they do to their wedding gown–or gowns.”

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“At Oscar time Beverly Hills becomes the target for stars and stylists, with Rodeo Drive as its bullseye,” saysMia Kaczinski Dunn, co-author of the book Inside Rodeo Drive: The Stores, The Stars, The Story.

“Limos are stacked bumper-to-bumper outside jewelers like Harry Winston. Delivery vans are waiting to transport racks of clothes to celebrity hotel suites,” says Dunn. “There’s a palpable excitement in the air.”

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