- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

Who captured center stage at last night’s Oscar ceremony? Was it Winslet, Hathaway, Rourke and Cruz? Or Herrera, Posen, Prada and de La Renta?

Though the public probably will forget who took home the night’s prized gold statuettes and who gave the best (and worst) speeches, there’s one thing they’re sure to recall long after the awards buzz fades: Who wore what.

Academy Award-watching has turned into a virtual fashion show as every network perches fashion commentators on the periphery of the red carpet with that all-consuming question that’s become symbolic not only of Oscar night, but award shows in general: “Who are you wearing?”

Nick Verreos, a fashion designer and Oscar-night host for Oscars Designer Challenge: Behind the Dress at Oscar.com, says the gowns worn set trends that reverberate throughout the fashion world and retail market - which explains why top clothiers clamor to get the highest strata of stars to strut into the Kodak Theatre wearing their designs.

“The Oscars is when the multimillion-dollar megabrand conglomerates really push their gowns on stylists and their clients - and, in turn, the actresses want to wear them for a possible future chance in garnering a cosmetic, sunglass or marketing campaign with them,” Mr. Verreos says.

This is why it is so difficult for “up-and-coming designers” to get their gowns at an event like the Oscars, he says.

“There is too much involved now,” Mr. Verreos notes.

As for trends, Mr. Verreos was struck with the infusion of color on last night’s red carpet.

“The canary yellows, deep violets and reds have been very popular on the red carpet. That oldmyth of not to wear red on the red carpet has been broken. It’s like not wearing white after Labor Day - that is so 1950, not 2009,” he says.

Mr. Verreos also says dresses with similar fit and form will be seen in local malls as midmarket department stores duplicate Oscar gowns just in time for the upcoming prom season.

“The mermaid fitted shape with fullness and flare below the knees will still be popular,” he says, “but I also expect to see lots of full, flowy silk chiffon georgette gowns.

“Fitted at the bust, of course, but flowy and loose from the empire line down.”

The gown, however, is just one part of the star’s overall look. Accessories, plus hair and makeup, also factor in.

So what looks reigned supreme?

“At Fashion Week, there was a marriage of sleekness and texture within the hair: shine and control at the base or the part and then natural smoothness through the ends, whether it was a ponytail or a curl set,” says Leah Le, a leading stylist with PR at Partners Salon in the District, who based her observations on trends seen at last week’s Fashion Week in New York.

“The looks were all very feminine but powerful, like today’s women,” says Miss Le, who also was chosen as a member of the select Sebastian Professional hair team for the spring and fall New York Fashion Week shows as well as the most recent event in New York.

“I saw lots of braids, too, so look for those at this Sunday’s Oscars as well,” Miss Le predicted.

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