Out of character

Special to The Times

AN Emmy nomination is much more than just a huge honor. It's also a chance for the stars to show a little personal style, free from the limitations of their televised alter egos. Face it, when you spend an entire season hemmed in by the fashion choices of your character -- or in the case of "24," trapped in the same outfit week after week -- the Emmy red carpet is your only chance to stand out. Here are some of the nominees expected to make the biggest impressions, and how they stack up alongside their prime-time personas.



Nominated for: Supporting actress in a comedy series

Show: "My Name Is Earl"

Character: Joy, Earl's trailer-trashed ex

On-screen style: Joy has never met a tube top she didn't love. Think Britney on a budget. I know. It's not pretty.

Off-screen taste: Pressly has a sexy/trendy/sporty L.A. look. She also has a clothing line, J'aime. Body-hugging midriff tops, low-rise pants, jersey knit dresses ... you get the picture.

Emmy look? Figure on a big designer, probably couture. She's one of the few nominees in the 2-to-4 size range, and everyone will be fighting to dress her.



Nominated for: Supporting actress in a drama series

Show: "Grey's Anatomy"

Character: Dr. Cristina Yang

On-screen style: Oh's character is a cynical, driven, workaholic intern who hates displays of emotion. If she could, she'd wear her surgical scrubs and mask every day. Away from work, clothes are an afterthought -- nondescript sweats, sweaters and slacks.

Off-screen taste: A trained dancer born in Canada, Oh's an eclectic dresser, sporting everything from tough tomboy jeans and quirky T-shirts to vintage designer dresses. Last year she danced with her Golden Globe award in a sexy Collette Dinnigan halter dress, then showed off her lithe figure in a vintage strapless Versace while winning a SAG award.

Emmy look? Maybe former Calvin Klein designer Peter Som. Last month, she was Som's date to the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in New York, wearing one of Som's stunning goddess gowns.



Nominated for: Lead actress in a drama series

Show: "The Closer"

Character: Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson

On-screen style: Sedgwick plays a top Atlanta interrogator transferred to an LAPD priority murder squad. Johnson favors Southern-belle fitted skirt suits and separates that look more Jacques Penney than Christian Dior.

Emmy look? She donned a Bottega Veneta strapless frock for the 2006 Globes and a sexy strapless red Emanuel Ungaro gown at the recent Tony Awards. Clearly, she's not afraid of bright colors or showing a little skin.



Nominated for: Lead actress in a comedy series

Show: "Will & Grace"

Character: Grace, a New York interior decorator

On-screen style: Can you say fashionista? Longtime viewers love watching the show just to spot the latest trends and must-haves from Prada, Chanel, Marc Jacobs or Michael Kors. Grace's Vera Wang wedding gown sparked a craze for molded corset bodices.

Off-screen taste: Messing's personal love of designer wares -- from Chanel, Alexander McQueen, Elie Saab, Vera Wang and Jimmy Choo -- and her great coat-hanger figure make her a red-carpet delight. But she hasn't gotten back to her designer sample size after the 2004 birth of her son. (Hey, it's not easy, even with personal trainers.)

Emmy look? Remember when Messing stole the show in a fab bronze Elie Saab gown at the 2003 Emmys? Expectations are always high here, which puts pressure on "Will & Grace" costumer Lori Eskowitz, who dresses the star for all stylish carpet crawls.



Nominated for: Lead actress in a drama series

Show: "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

Character: Det. Olivia Benson

On-screen style: Hargitay's character is a no-nonsense but empathetic detective. Natch, her closet includes lots of tailored separates.

Off-screen taste: Hargitay favors jeans over designer duds. But the daughter of Jayne Mansfield can also pull off va-va-voom when she wants. At last year's Emmys, she turned heads in a bright orange Carolina Herrera.

Emmy look? Expect the first-time mom to show off her sexy apres-baby figure. Elie Saab, perhaps?



Nominated for: Lead actor in a drama series

Show: "24"

Character: Agent Jack Bauer, the guy we all want with us when attempted assassinations, terrorist attacks, a loose nuke or two go down.

On-screen style: Because the whole season takes place in a 24-hour span, Bauer pretty much wears the same jeans, T-shirt, work shirt and work boots in every episode.

Off-screen taste: Sutherland favors classic, simple styles -- jeans, Ts and his favorite pair of worn leather boots.

Emmy look? Sutherland has worn Armani and Prada to past shows. Don't expect much to change this year. "Kiefer's not the kind of man who has to get a new tux every year," says his stylist, Vincent Boucher.



Nominated for: Lead actor in a drama series

Show: "Rescue Me"

Character: Tommy Gavin, a heroic and foul-mouthed New York City firefighter.

On-screen style: When not in firefighter turnouts, Gavin's a no-nonsense dresser. Favorite accessories? A cigarette and his fighting Irish spirit.

Off-screen taste: Leary's jeans, leather jackets, turtlenecks and basic Ts aren't all that different from his alter ego. But he likes to mix in Prada or Hugo Boss along with his vintage-wash Ts.

Emmy look? Last year, Leary opted for an elegant one-button tux. For his first acting nod, look for a D & G tux -- spruced up but still edgy.



Nominated for: Supporting actor in a comedy series

Show: "Entourage"

Character: Ari Gold, a ruthless, egotistical, manic, morally ambiguous shark who eats assistants for breakfast (lunch and dinner). In other words, a Hollywood agent.

On-screen style: Slick, powerful and pricey. If it's not intimidating and expensive, it's not in his organized walk-in closet. Ari prefers to hug it out wearing classy A-list designers Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein and Hugo Boss.

Off-screen taste: In real life, Piven dresses more laid-back L.A.-centric and often sports a cultivated stubble, something clean-shaven Ari would never do. He makes the club scene in hip washed cotton Ts, thermal knit shirts, Kenneth Cole soft leather or suede jackets, distressed designer denim and Gucci shades, natch. But he'll pull out an Ari-esque suit for glitzy premieres.

Emmy look? Piven picked a slim, one-button black Calvin Klein suit, black shirt and black tie to host the recent Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards. But he'll probably go Euro-fash (Armani, Gucci, Dolce or Prada) to the Emmys. Unless he's gotten a dynamite endorsement deal with Klein. As Ari would say, "Jealous much ... "

Elizabeth Snead writes the Hollywood Bytes blog for TheEnvelope.com.

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