The 64th annual Academy Awards may have been the main event inside. But a fashion fete to rival the recent Paris collections--occasionally interrupted by gay protesters--captured the attention of onlookers Monday afternoon outside on the steps of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
Under cloudy skies, dozens of mounted police moved the demonstrators across the street just moments before the limo parade began in earnest, unloading Hollywood's elite.
Suddenly it was "Warren . . . Jodie . . . Bette." But when the stars finally sauntered up the red carpet, it was Armani, Versace and Valentino who were competing for attention.
If the contest had been for fashion, Giorgio Armani undoubtedly would have taken top honors for the third consecutive year. His togs appeared on everyone from best actress winner Jodie Foster (stylishly outfitted in a champagne silk faille kimono-style jacket over beaded pants) and best actress nominee Laura Dern (in a backless beaded pearl and taupe gown) to Annette Bening (in a midnight blue silk, V-neck evening dress) and Anjelica Huston (wearing a jet black beaded cardigan-style jacket with matching skirt).
Armani-clad men included best actor nominee Nick Nolte (in a monochromatic black silk tuxedo with velvet shawl collar and a black tuxedo shirt); emcee Billy Crystal (in a dapper black velvet five-button tuxedo); Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro (both sporting classic tuxes); best director nominee Oliver Stone (in an elegant black velvet smoking jacket with silk tuxedo pants); Tom Hanks (tails with a white pique vest and matching tie), and Tom Cruise, all in navy.
Valentino, whose growing list of fashion clients included best supporting actress winner Mercedes Ruehl, best supporting actress nominee Jessica Tandy and best actress nominee Bette Midler, was also well represented. He gave a glamour look to Ruehl, who wore a black chiffon halter dress.
For Midler, Valentino sculpted a pale blue and pink silk gown and wrapped her shoulders in a matching shawl.
But it was for his creation for best actress nominee Susan Sarandon, who is eight months pregnant, that Valentino took top prize as Best Designer for Delicate Situations. For Sarandon, he created a simple black sheath with scalloped V-neck.
Valentino got some weighty competition in this category from New York costume designer Jane Greenwood, who outfitted best supporting actress nominee Kate Nelligan, in her sixth month, in a big-skirted aubergine dress.
Gianni Versace and Nino Cerruti had to duke it out for best designer in a supporting role.
Versace creations were worn by Goldie Hawn, director Norman Jewison and best director nominee John Singleton, in a classic tuxedo with an animal-printed cummerbund and bow tie.
Nino Cerruti customers included best actor winner Anthony Hopkins (in a six-button double-breasted suit); actor-producer Michael Douglas (in a classic tuxedo with one-of-a-kind silk vest) and best supporting actor nominee Michael Lerner, who wore a single-breasted suit two sizes too large (thanks to a recent diet) and weathered green Topsiders without socks "for good luck."
If the Italians carried the lion's share of Oscar fashions, the Americans were not out to pasture. Hollywood costumer Bob Mackie created the beaded gold frock for best original screenplay nominee Fannie Flagg as well as Sally Kirkland's off-the-shoulder see-through beaded gown.
Daryl Hannah left her pink Barbie Doll dress from a previous Oscar night at home in favor of a more tasteful black slinky slip gown with spaghetti straps. The dress was created by Bill Hargate and Julie Weiss.
Best supporting actress nominee Diane Ladd looked sleek and slim in a body-hugging Mary McFadden.
However, Edward James Olmos and Sally Field took the prize for nattiest dressers. Olmos credited Matsuda for his silk Jacquard tuxedo, long coat and white silk waistcoat. He said it was the perfect ensemble for an evening of benefits. Field, with husband Alan Greisman in Armani, said her vivid purple off-the-shoulder gown was by Nolan Miller.