CALENDAR GOES TO THE OSCARS : Italians Dominate the Red-Carpet Runway : Armani, Versace Turn the Heads of Top Oscar Contenders, but the Elusive Jaye Davidson Captures the Hearts of Fans


Fashion pundits were taking bets on the street at the 65th annual Academy Awards as to who would be the bigger showstopper, best supporting actor nominee Jaye Davidson or Italian designer Giorgio Armani.

Certainly, Armani and countrymen Gianni Versace and Valentino--who have managed to turn the Oscars into their own private fashion show for the past three years--had the advantage.

But Davidson, whose gender-bending role in “The Crying Game” had fashion followers musing about what he would wear on Oscar night, had the element of surprise on his side.

The anticipation was palpable in the bleachers outside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Monday afternoon as film buffs and fans waited for the parade to begin.


When the celebrity sightings finally started, it appeared that the Italians had the contest all sewed up, especially when “The Crying Game’s” best screenwriter-director nominee Neil Jordan (sporting a black three-button, single-breasted tux with matching silk vest and narrow-banded-collar shirt) showed up early in Armani, and best actor nominee Stephen Rea, also from “The Crying Game,” went with Valentino.

Oddsmakers wondered if Davidson would play it safe. Or would he risk the disapproval of the conservative academy and . . . gasp! . . . don a dress?

The media-shy actor bypassed the show out front by slipping in the artists’ entrance about 4:30 p.m. He wore a tunic-like black shirt with white stripes over full pants tucked into boots. Davidson’s long hair was in the same French-twist style he wore in “The Crying Game.” Although the look was androgynous, Davidson clearly didn’t want to be the center of attention. You could almost hear a collective sigh from those who hoped to see a drag diva.

With Davidson hiding backstage before the show, the afternoon progressed as a typical red-carpet runway show. As expected, Armani was the biggest vote-getter.

Best supporting actress nominee Judy Davis was the first to show up in the designer’s togs. Looking as if she got caught in the rain, Davis wore Armani’s navy trousers and a sequined outer vest.

Later, a super-svelte Jodie Foster strolled in looking like a classic 1950s movie star. She turned in last year’s champagne pantsuit for a sexy Armani strapless black gown featuring a tucked bodice, swirling side panels and a rosette belt.

Neither Armani nor Versace could persuade best actor-director nominee Clint Eastwood to sport one of their Italian tuxedos. Instead, the actor opted for an elegant double-breasted, vested model by French designer Nino Cerruti. Eastwood’s girlfriend and “Unforgiven” co-star, Frances Fisher, wore a tasteful, 1940s-inspired, one-shouldered, black silk velvet evening gown by Escada.

Meanwhile, best supporting actress winner Marisa Tomei discarded her trashy wardrobe from her role in “My Cousin Vinny” for a black-striped white ball gown by Chanel, which she wore with long black gloves.

While the Italians had the lion’s share of the fashions here, the Americans were not overlooked. Best actress nominee Mary McDonnell wore Calvin Klein’s sexy sheer, sequined black pantsuit.

Best actress nominee Susan Sarandon looked as if she slipped in an aluminum-foil factory, with her skin-tight gold gown and matching platform shoes by Calvin Klein.

And best supporting actress nominee Miranda Richardson picked Klein’s simple matte-gray jersey sheath because “we were on the same wavelength. It’s kind of medieval.”

Sharon Stone made a safe choice--Vera Wang’s champagne-colored cape, which disguised a silk duchesse satin full-length gown with fitted draped bodice.

Geena Davis, who stepped on a fashion land mine last year with her Vegas showgirl dress, redeemed herself. Once again, she and L.A. designer Bill Hargate collaborated--this time on a black velvet sheath with scalloped bodice and mountains of diamonds at her neck.

The leading men were not about to be upstaged. Armani’s creativity ran especially wild in his outfit for best actor nominee Denzel Washington. The actor turned out in an avant-garde silk tuxedo featuring an elongated double-breasted, tailed jacket over a wide-banded-collar shirt and fluffy cravat.

Robert Downey Jr., nominated for best actor for his performance as Charlie Chaplin, outstyled almost everyone in a French, military-inspired, black silk velvet tuxedo over a foppish tie, all by Los Angeles designer Richard Tyler.

Other Hollywood men, including best supporting actor winner Gene Hackman, (in a navy, single-breasted, shawl-collared tuxedo), best actor winner Al Pacino (wearing a black single-breasted, shawl-collared jacket and white shirt), and Tom Hanks (in black tails), all sported classic Armani formal wear.


After the Academy Awards, Hollywood heads for the Governors Ball, and then one or more of half a dozen fetes. Follow the party trail from the Biltmore to Beverly Hills--in View.