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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 14:55 GMT
Dressing for the Oscars

By Marcelle d'Argy Smith
Former Cosmopolitan editor

It was always going to be a difficult conflict. The Oscars versus the War.

Nicole Kidman and Catherine Zeta Jones
Back in black: Nicole Kidman and Catherine Zeta Jones
No red carpet, no jazzy interplay between press and stars. It was a serious sartorial challenge to strike the right note.

But most of the loveliest and best managed it. Severe or simple was the order of the night. When in doubt wear black.

There were many stars in doubt. They included Nicole Kidman in something long and slinky with thick straps, bondage-like against her dead white skin.

Catherine Zeta Jones, ripe and gorgeous in a flowing black dress and a permissible plunge neck.

A too-thin Julia Roberts in a black halter necked dress. Angelica Houston in a plain black V-necked, long sleeved dress.

Cameron Diaz in something slinky but simple with capped sleeves and a black bracelet, Susan Sarandon less luminous than usual in a black dress with sleeves.

Barbra Streisand wore a severe black jacket over a long dress, Geena Davis looked goth-like, her dead straight black hair drooping over her straight V-necked dress. But oh - that smile.

Discreet split

Jennifer Connelly was another black jacket over black dress wearer, looking so much better than at last year's ceremony when she was in shrinking beige.

The most beautiful woman in the room was undoubtedly Selma Hayek. It's got little to do with her clothes.

Selma Hayek looked impossibly, outrageously lovely

Her dress had an exquisite black sparkling long sleeved round necked top, with a discreet split to her cleavage and a full white satin skirt.

If it was a bad night for the Gangs of New York, it was worse for famous jewellers Cartier, Bulgari, Harry Winstone et al.

There was no vulgar cleavage, exposed midriffs and flashes of naked thigh. Nobody looked ridiculous, out of place, over the top, or had even made dreadful fashion mistakes.

Remember Bjork in her swan outfit? No, none of that. No fashion jokes. No strutting.

It was the time for the "down gown" with matching hair-do. Never have I seen so many women with their hair pulled tightly off their faces, drawn into swirls of hair at the back of the head. It's severe but incredibly svelte.

It was the hair-do of choice for Jennifer Lopez, Catherine Zeta Jones, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Connelly.

Cameron Diaz looked merely scruffy with long hair. But maybe the gum-chewing didn't help.

No clutter

But not everybody did black and severe. Some stars did simple - as in no jewellery, no clutter - and they looked wonderful. Dare we say better than usual?

J-Lo, she who normally strains every stitch of her dresses, wore the palest sea green silk jersey flowing dress.

There was not a hint of cleavage - J-Lo bared one shoulder and arm. She looked stunning.

Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore lost out in the race for Oscars - but her outfit won plaudits
Renee Zellweger wore a straight dark red satin dress with a hint of dark red glitter on the bodice, shoe string straps, and absolutely no jewellery.

With her neat blonde bobbed hair, husky voice and toned body, Renee's adorable. Why didn't she get an Oscar?

Julianne Moore with her creamy skin and red hair swept off her face looked lovely in a strapless emerald green dress and matching dropped green earrings.

Meryl Streep, hair swept softly up, went for a simple square necked black dress with grey organza sleeves.

Halle Berry, predictably gorgeous, was in a one-shouldered pale beige gold long straight dress that sparkled.

Diane Lane in a similar coloured beige/nude dress with a slight feathery look skirt, solved the upper arm problem with what looked like a matching net/organza stole that fastened at the back.

What we witnessed - fashion and beauty wise - was mostly the rich and awful power of women in their 30s.

These are the best clothes horses in the world - with everything at their disposal.

They are thin or skinny - and I include J-Lo.

Who looked best? It's probably the year of Catherine Zeta Jones, the woman with everything. Love, beauty, wealth, success and a baby due in two weeks do give a woman a special sort of glow, even if we are at war.


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