Halle wins in style and substance.
Oscars: Plain and Simple
While we usually enthuse about prints and color on the red carpet, those who looked best at the 74th annual Academy Awards stuck to solid colors, elegant cuts and just enough frippery to look fresh. Those who tried too hard—like Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Connelly—looked more like they were wearing poolside outfits than red carpet gowns. The fashion plates were unlikely choices: Kate Winslet, Renee Zellweger and Helen Mirren. And for once, the inconsistent Nicole Kidman came through in her best wavy hair and pink dress. No “Moulin Rouge” excess here.
And the winners are:
The Palm Beach Trophy goes to Halle Berry. Who’d have thought she’d win an Academy Award while wearing a palm tree on her chest? This Elie Saab design hugged her body perfectly and used Halle’s favorite chocolate/burgundy color. The embroidery on the front reminded us of a bathing suit, though.
The Trick or Treat Award for Outfit Most Resembling a Halloween Costume goes to Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s a gracious, fashionable star—so doesn’t she have one friend willing to stand up and say, “Gwyneth, wear a bra!”? Even small-breasted women can droop, and clingy lace just makes it look worse. The Heidi-of-the-Lower-East-Side hairdo didn’t help.
The Piet Mondrian Mention for Best Use of a Primary and/or Solid Color goes to Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren. Winslet’s sinuous red dress by Ben De Lisi had just the right amount of detail in the roses over the shoulder. Mirren, in Giorgio Armani, shows that style doesn’t stop (or sometimes, even start) by 40.
Basic Black Honorable Mention to Renee Zellweger, Helen Hunt and Marisa Tomei. Never our favorite color, but dramatic on Renee, surprisingly sexy on Helen, and just twisted enough on Marisa, in Jurgen Simonsen. Hunt, with her new wind-tossed blonde locks, looked happy to be out for a change. Renee looked like she’d spent a little too much time at the Estee Lauder Spa. Note for next time: Facials and microdermabrasion leave skin very shiny. Reese Witherspoon, so eager not to be cute, is turning to somber shades more and more. Even with Valentino’s sweet beaded flapper touches, the dress was severe, the hair too tight. Think pink!
The Golden Globe for Most Improved Since January: Nicole Kidman in Chanel, and Sissy Spacek. Kidman picked just the right formula, although she could have gotten away with a bit more drama. She had perfectly waved, movie-star hair; a body-hugging Chanel dress with the flair of pink ruffles. The Bulgari necklace was almost too distracting, and Chanel jewelry would have completed the look… Spacek stuck to basic colors and shapes but in a perfectly cut white jacket. Even her hair was neater than it was two months ago.
Fashion Victim, Plain and Simple, to Jennifer Connelly. Beige draped ruffles by Balenciaga—so 2002!
The Fred Segal Special Mention for Fashion Victim Runners-Up: Cameron Diaz and Kirsten Dunst. We beg and plead for stars to step up and wear the likes of Galliano and Emanuel Ungaro. This is what we get? Dunst, like Gwyneth, needed a boost in her droopy Dior. Diaz, a fresh fashion original, made the mistake of accessorizing her pink print dress with turquoise jewelry and bedhead. When in a dress from Paris, do as the Parisiennes do—clean yourself up…The Yogi Berra Déjà vu All Over Again to Marcia Gay Harden, whose pretty Oscar de la Renta frock looks similar to one Juliana Margulies wore a couple of years ago.
The Why Am I Here? Disposable Camera to Julia Roberts. She wore Armani, although she wasn’t on the initial press release the designer’s office sent out two days before the Oscars. Either she asked for privacy, or more likely, made her decision over the weekend. After dying her hair blond for a role recently, her return to red looked as subtle as a new penny.
The Look At Me Portable Spotlight on Laura Harring: A couple of months ago when we first heard about Stuart Weitzman’s million-dollar shoes, with special platinum fabric and ropes of diamonds from Kwiat, we thought: No nominee will wear these. They like to play it safe, and they like to keep the attention on themselves not one item they’re wearing. Stuart’s popular enough and these shoes are striking enough, that someone will wear them. It will be a young actress, a presenter or someone at the ceremony for the first time. She’ll move up from B to A on the paparazzi hit list when she wears these.
Enter—Laura Harring, ex-soap star who crossed over to coolness in “Mulholland Drive.” She hooked up with clever stylist George Blodwell, who quizzed his client: “Are you averse to worldwide publicity?” Once she agreed, he opened negotiations with Weitzman’s team. These chats are always like the last 20 minutes of any “Law & Order” episode. They know who the murderer is. It's just a matter of seeing who will bite first: the criminal, looking for an easy deal, or Sam Waterston, looking for a longer sentence. For Weitzman, the clock was ticking. At noon Thursday, Sharon Stone had scheduled an appointment to see the shoes but didn’t keep it. Blodwell declared to Weitzman, “I can promise you, if you can promise me.” Agreed! “We shook on it,” he said. The stylist added a dress from Armani (“He’d taken her to Italy, so Laura said she had to wear his dress”). It was a straight column dress, but Blodwell cut it into a two-level to highlight the shoes, and nipped in the waist. And a star was born.
The Scene at L’Ermitage
Raffles L’Ermitage Hotel is a sleek beige building on Burton Way in Beverly Hills. Usually, the tree-lined street in front of the hotel is as quiet as the inside, a place of subtle relaxation. Last Friday, though, clusters of valets, autograph seekers and well-dressed visitors gathered on the sidewalk. Valet parking was full, we heard—and the wait for a car, getting longer. No worries. We parked across the street. Like everything in the hotel, it was free.
People grouch about the scene at L’Ermitage, saying it’s carnival-like, with dozens of designers, beauty companies and jewelers setting up suites to show their wares to journalists, stylists and stars. We say, this carnival is far better than the one where you throw a dart at a balloon to win a tacky stuffed bear.
Instead, we won a day of beauty, goodies and fine fashion advice. In the garden suite, Etienne Taenaka and his crew from Vidal Sassoon were giving a pal a red streak through her dark hair. Daryl Hannah had just left. Sassoon shared the suite with MAC, which was showing off a new LipGlass color: Infra-Red, a perfect brick tone. Celebrities were requesting housecalls from the team, including Minnie Driver, who wanted her makeup don at 9 AM. (We wondered why, until we glimpsed her at the Ivy that day having lunch with Harrison Ford.) Etienne, who is fond of line dancing when he isn’t designing hair for Gwen Stefani and us, clipped two inches of left-over blonde from our neck and left us feeling ready for spring.
Upstairs, the Ted Inc, suite was an open-door hotspot full of jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels, vintage Paco Rabanne dresses, Perrier Jouet Champagne, and a complete Helena Rubenstein makeup salon. There were so many goodies, sponsored by online gift company Red Envelope, that they had to book a separate room for them. Yes, goodies were sleeping on the bed.
At Helena’s spot, we asked for a lesson in simple daytime makeup, which meant everything except eye shadow and eyeliner. Lesson: Buy sponges. Use bronzer. We’d never tried the latter, but a new ginger shade convinced us. Angela Bassett, who loves to visit L’Ermitage, had just been in. Jane Seymour strolled in with a new hairdo by Peter Coppola. She was wearing a 1950s-Italian-girl-in-a-movie look, and getting away with it: hair up, black top, vintage white skirt with a sequined clusters of flowers, printed handbag, and black sandals.
Two floors up, Chanel Beaute and hair stylist Frederic Fekkai won the award for best food (miniature, square chocolate cakes tied with white-chocolate ribbons) and best display: a luscious selection of Chanel’s spring and summer colors. Chanel’s international makeup artist, Susan Sterling, a tiny, well-dressed woman in a tweed Chanel jacket and color-block shoes, offered her hand to demonstrate various new products. The Gouaches look like they’ve come from an art-supply store: five tubs of rich pigments that can be mixed or applied directly to lip, cheeks and eyes. “This is a ‘star’ product,” Susan explained. “A one-shot deal.” Meaning that when the supply is done, it’s done, even for her.
For the red carpet, Susan believes firmly in powder. “It should last for hours,” she says. She did Oscar-party makeup for Lauren Graham and Heidi Klum. A new item, Blanc Universel, is an “illuminator” that goes under foundation and gives a glowing effect. In its little pot it felt like a whipped, creamy mousse, although not as tasty as that little cake. We finished with a nail shade called Coconut.
At the Johnnie Walker Blue suite, treatments like facials and shaves were for men only. But women were welcome to belly up to the bar for a snifter. After that, we really needed was food. At jeweler Christian Tse’s suite, they’d just ordered a pizza from Mulberry Street, and we dug in. As Marisa Tomei started her sight-seeing (also tiny, carrying a red Birkin bag), we glimpsed Christian’s halter made completely of tiny platinum beads, topped by an orange diamond. Christian specializes in platinum, and treats it as more than a setting for rows of white diamonds. He crafts pieces of platinum beads and mesh that show off the metal. We washed down our slice with a Bombay Sapphire martini, made with plum liqueur.
Convinced that the balance of food and alcohol in our body would not permit safe driving for at least a few more minutes, we dropped back into a comfy seat in the lobby. Actress Rachel Weisz scurried up to Alberta Ferretti’s rep and apologized—she’d just been eating garlic. New York designer Marc Bouwer was checking in with his partner and their two little dogs. They were all on their way to a fitting with Jennifer Tilly. Gwyneth Paltrow’s Kwiat diamond necklace, which she’d borrowed for a party, was making its return to the hotel. Feeling steadier, we grabbed our car ourselves and left, glamorous and well fed.
Berry and Harring photos by Wireimage.com