DOES IT REALLY MATTER THAT THE VH1 Fashion Awards are as relevant to the world of couture as a hog-calling contest? It's still a great excuse to throw a swanky shindig. On Oct. 24, the third annual love-in among the biggest names in music, film and TV, and the absolutely fabulous designers who clothe them, got off to an exuberant start when Jim Carrey, whom the audience did know from Adam, glided onstage in nothing but a fig leaf and intoned: "This is where fashion began."

While his allusion was to the Garden of Eden, it was in that other renowned Garden (New York City's Madison Square) that the awards show—hosted by Ashley Judd and singer Harry Connick Jr.—actually convened. The evening brought out a Bruce-less Demi Moore (who introduced a touching tribute to the late Gianni Versace), soulster Maxwell (with beads glued around his eyes), 20-year-old pop queen Fiona Apple (yellow eye shadow around hers) and the spruced-up (well, for them) ZZ Top, among others. But the night's primo exemplar of glamor was best-personal-style winner Courtney Love, in a lavender Versace cocktail dress (Will Smith won the male title). The onetime grunge princess gave a surprising explanation for her highly publicized transformation. "I have a child," she later said, referring to Frances Bean, 5, whose father was Love's late husband, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain. "And I'm responsible as she starts going to school." She also delivered the show's longest speech. "Respecting each other's sexuality," she concluded, "is about the coolest thing I can think of, except for maybe legalizing hemp and not wearing fur."

Though this was hardly an event to put PETA activists into attack mode, chiropractors might well have seized the opportunity to hand out business cards among the sea of long-legged women—including Sarah Jessica Parker and En Vogue—perched on stiletto heels. The trick, Mariah Carey told reporters: "Walk very carefully and try to balance yourself."

The post-awards party, held in five vast rooms at the Chelsea Piers sports complex in downtown Manhattan, didn't get rolling until 10 p.m.—TV taping ran so late that an entire category (photographer of the year) was never even presented. As guests nibbled on sushi, pepper-and-eggplant pasta, chicken dumplings and assorted fruits, Love and Mark Wahlberg huddled in deep conversation in a corner, seemingly oblivious of the gang of photographers and well-wishers calling out their names. Only a foot away, Moore chatted with Donald Trump while his daughter Ivanka, 16, stood by, dressed in a plain white T-shirt and black skirt. The Donald later offered his own inimitable insight into style: "It's not one thing," said Trump. "It's lots of things."

And there were probably lots of reasons the mood of the evening was so palpably upbeat, with revelers dancing to vintage disco until well past 2 a.m. Saturday Night Live comic Norm MacDonald offered one explanation for the prevailing ambience. "Music and fashion," he mused, "have a symbiotic relationship." Asked to elaborate, he said, "I'd have to ask somebody what 'symbiotic' means."

TOM GLIATTO
REBECCA DAMERON, SUE MILLER and MARY GREEN in New York City

  • Contributors:
  • Rebecca Dameron,
  • Sue Miller,
  • Mary Green.