Haute dates at the costume gala

Talk about all dressed with somewhere to go. Hollywood's hottest actresses joined forces with their favorite fashion designers at the lavish annual Costume Institute Gala, held this week at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And these hot fashion dates may set the stage for who dresses whom during the 2008 Awards Season.

Fer instance, Julianne Moore walked with Yves St. Laurent designer Stefano Pilati, who did her sternum-revealing tux dress. Chloe Sevigny accompanied Nicolas Ghesquiere in a Balenciaga gown, as did Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Connelly.

A preggers Salma Hayek filled out a black velvet Balenciaga and was escorted by her fashion force fiancé, Francois-Henri Pinault, also a co-chair of the evening. And Cameron Diaz wowed the crowd in a fuchia Dior by John Galliano with a turquoise necklace/matching earrings that looked like they came from a department store accessories sale rack.

Jennifer Lopez went with Marchesa, the same designer she chose for the Golden Globes. Charlie's Angel Lucy Liu wore one of Zac Posen's creations. So did an expectant Naomi Watts. Lindsay Lohan picked a sheer black gown by Bally designer Brian Atwood. And she actually arrived late to the grand affair, missing the cocktail hour and rushing straight into the dinner. Do they not learn manners in rehab?

Jennifer Garner wore the biggest dress of the night, a flowing scarlet tent by Valentino, who personally helped her negotiate the carpet. Renee Zellweger once again aligned herself with Carolina Herrera. Jennifer Hudson wore a sparkling one-shouldered Michael Kors and was accompanied by her Oscar stylist Andre Leon Talley, whom she has apparently forgiven for that embarrassing Star Trek jacket debacle.

Jessica Simpson wore her hair stylist Ken Paves' hair extensions and a plunging Roberto Cavalli gown that revealed the two biggest reasons why John Mayer was her date.

Who cares what these actresses wear to some ridiculous, overblown New York ball? Oh, how little you know. Those in the rag trade are keenly aware that these early alliances between actress and designer will be key during the next awards season when you may, for instance, see Hilary Swank sporting another Donatella Versace gown to the Oscars. We're talking prime real estate here.

And Oscar gown placements don't happen overnight. These so-called "relationships" are carefully cultivated for months and months until the actresses burst onto major awards carpets in gowns designed by their fashion "friend." And did I mention that the main fertilizer is financial? Actresses don't wear these gowns for free, Silly. They are veeery well compensated for spending an evening being nothing more than walking designer billboards.

Oh, by the way, the star-studded evening honored Paul Poiret, the pre-WWI designer who loved bright colors and is credited with freeing women from the enslavement of cruel corsets. Bravo, Paul. Now can someone work on getting rid of those treacherous platform stiletto heels?

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