Oscar's Classic Revival

The chicest of Hollywood's women put elegant understatement over the top, while the men came untied—if not quite unnoticed


WHITE SATIN, SWEEPING TRAINS, BARE SHOULDERS, bouffant skirts, even tiaras—clearly, Hollywood was inspired by classic silver-screen glamor when it dressed on March 27 for the 67th annual Academy Awards ceremony. Echoing last year’s theme of restrained elegance, such nominees as Winona Ryder (in a sequined dress by Little Women costumer Colleen Atwood) and presenters like Jamie Lee Curtis (lowered onto the stage by helicopter in the little black number she wore in True Lies) bypassed big hair, splashy colors and Cher-style theatrics. The look for men was similarly no-frills: Best Actor winner Tom Hanks opted for a collarless shirt (prompting host David Letterman to crack, “Would it kill you to have worn a tie?”), and John Travolta wore a striped vest under his Agnes B. jacket, but even hipsters like Jack Nicholson chose the sort of timeless tux that Cary Grant might have favored.

Of course, since Hollywood movers often have more money than fashion savvy, the crowd at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium sometimes fell short of the sartorial mark. Sarah Jessica Parker looked uncomfortably shrink-wrapped in Calvin Klein’s spartan black sheath, and Oprah chose a bustled, bronze Gianfranco Ferre gown that was more overdone than elegant. Rene Russo looked underdressed in a brown Armani slip dress, and a zaftig Dianne Wiest (who took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) displayed a surfeit of cleavage in her Donna Karan. And in a category all her own, Oscar-winner Lizzy Gardiner, costume designer for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, made a memorable imprint in a dress fashioned from American Express gold cards. After the show, she explained that when she designed the frock for the film’s drag queens, Amex had refused to supply the plastic; after her nomination, however, the company dispatched 254 cards in a briefcase escorted by armed guards.

For his part, designer Arnold Scaasi was unimpressed with the Oscar-night ensembles (many of which were on loan). “Most people looked like they were wearing last year’s dresses,” he lamented. But Vera Wang (who designed Holly Hunter’s sheer white sheath) saw much to applaud. “Ellen Barkin in Chanel was a standout, and Sigourney Weaver looked like a very grand movie star in Lacroix,” she said. “All in all, it was a new degree of glamor.”

While trend-watchers including Joan Rivers (who wore a crystal-studded Pamela Dennis gown) went with a look that Dennis described as “old Hollywood,” there were endless variations on the postglitz theme. “Everybody was into their own thing,” says Wang. “Annette Bening and Sigourney Weaver were into glamor and retro. Sharon Stone wanted to seem serious. It was a real potpourri.”

The adventurous Stone drew mixed reviews: Some observers were dazzled by the full-skirted platinum gown and short jacket that Wang designed for her, while others were reminded of Glinda, the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz. And Stone’s tightly curled auburn hair “was too done-looking,” in the words of London-based hairstylist John Frieda, whose clients include Glenn Close.

After answering endless questions about their ensembles (“All people want to know is whose outfit you’re wearing,” Curtis complained good-naturedly), Hollywood’s working wealthy were happy to retreat to the fetes that followed the telecast. Foster, Thurman and Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino were among the 1,650 guests at the $500-a-ticket Governors Ball at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium, where celebrants tucked into Oscar-shaped roasted salmon prepared by Spago’s Wolfgang Puck. After the meal, Puck helicoptered the 12 miles back to his flagship West Hollywood restaurant, where the crowd of 300-plus included Stevie Wonder, Gene Siskel and Oprah, who had changed into a more maneuverable dress by Jill Sander.

Held at Morton’s, the bash thrown by Vanity Fair and Forrest Gump producer Steve Tisch drew a high-profile group including Dolly Parton, Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, Michael Douglas and Chevy Chase, who supped on mushroom risotto while Arnold Schwarzenegger chatted in German with Steven Seagal’s date, Austrian Arissa Wolf. When Angie Dickinson walked by, Barkin leapt up from her perch (and from her date, estranged husband Gabriel Byrne), explaining, “I have to say hello. Ever since I was 19 years old, cab drivers have told me how much I look like her.”

Hole’s Courtney Love—in a thrift-shop slip dress and $2 tiara—was even more unguarded. Introducing British actress Amanda de Cadenet (she’s really the wife of Duran Duran’s John Taylor) as “my lesbian girlfriend,” she puffed on Matt Dillon’s cigar and delivered a disjointed monologue about Brad Pitt, Scientology and her late husband, Kurt Cobain. Refusing to say who had given her the 4.5-carat diamond on her left ring finger, Love described the bauble as ”a friendship ring” from a “very handsome” 30-year-old actor. Then she added, “I don’t care if it’s 10 carats. No one can replace Kurt. For five years, I woke up with the sexiest man in the world, so no one impresses me.”

By midnight, Chasen’s, the Hollywood landmark that will give way to a shopping center on April 1, was jammed with revelers including Travolta, Hunter, Jennifer Tilly, Angela Bassett and Madonna. Outside, fans cried out for autographs and photographers complained as Stone rushed down the restaurant’s walkway. “Deal with it or don’t!” she snapped. Told that her bodyguard had to leave his gun outside, Stone staged a scene. “She yelled, ‘They’re throwing me out of here!’ ” says a security guard who was present. After publicists descended from all directions, the Chasen’s guard was overruled. “She’s been getting death threats,” he said. “Now we know why.”

The fete hosted by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency at the Bel Age Hotel was free of frenzy, as well as booze: It attracted the likes of actress Shirley Jones and Christopher Daniel Barnes, who played Greg Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie. “If you had told me three years ago that I would be here I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Mary Jo Buttafuoco, the Long Island housewife shot by a jealous Amy Fisher in 1992. “I mean, I was painting my wicker chairs at home. Now look where I am.”

Small children were the accessory of choice at the Elton John AIDS Foundation benefit in the ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, which was festooned with movie props including Kevin Costner’s Army uniform from Dances with Wolves. The 500-odd grown-ups on hand included Kiefer Sutherland, Natalie Cole and Sylvester Stallone, who nibbled on potato pancakes with caviar and gazed at models draped with $15 million in jewels lent by event-sponsor Cartier. Celebrating his Best Song Oscar for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” from The Lion King, Elton spent most of his time in the VIP room, and the party broke up early. By 2 a.m., when Hugh Grant (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Elizabeth Hurley stopped by, only about 50 hardy souls were on hand. Among them was a would-be gate crasher who kept trying to talk his way past a security guard. “But my cousin is on One Life to Live!” he cried. When last seen, he was still on the wrong side of the velvet rope.



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