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Stars & Spangles

updated 04/07/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/07/2003 01:00AM

In a town where understatement is a foreign language, dressing for the Academy Awards triggered a flurry of second thoughts. When the traditional long red-carpet stroll was canceled, Hollywood collected backup outfits in muted tones and shuddered over the prospect of...pant suits. After considering the alternatives, most stars circled back to plan A. They chose the luscious gowns and the luxurious gems, but when in doubt, they downsized: Mira Sorvino nixed a pair of $80,000 earrings to match her diamond necklace. "I'm trying to keep it simple because of everything going on," she explained. Smart move: This year a well-placed bit of dazzle was all it took.

RED CARPET DIARY

Fashion emergencies. Last-minute decisions. Air kisses all around. Here's how the stars counted down the hours to Oscar.

9 a.m. Presenter Diane Lane attends rehearsal at the Kodak Theatre. "They needed me because Cate Blanchett couldn't make it," says Lane. "She's working on a film [Ron Howard's The Missing]."

9:30 a.m. Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones practice their Best Original Song nominee, "I Move On." Latifah has checked into a suite at the Renaissance Hotel, adjacent to the Kodak Theatre, so she doesn't have to leave the site to get dressed. Meanwhile, feeling feverish, their Chicago costar Richard Gere takes antibiotics prescribed by his doctor and spends the morning in bed in his hotel room.

10:30 a.m. Salma Hayek gets a facial. A little while later she greets jeweler Martin Katz at her home, where she chooses a 12.5-carat diamond bracelet and an 8-carat diamond-and-onyx brooch for her hair. Michael Moore attends mass with his wife, Kathleen Glynn, and dad Frank at the Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills. "It was a normal Sunday for me," he notes.

11 a.m. Heather Graham—whose boyfriend, About a Boy scribe Chris Weitz, is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay—wakes up. "I got up and meditated," she says. "It put me in the right state of mind." As for her Versace frock, she says she chose it "because it's a mixture of masculine and feminine. I didn't change my dress because it's black and I'd already picked it out in the beginning of the week."

11:30 a.m. Nicole Kidman and her daughter Isabella, 10, continue their weekend of mother-daughter pampering. "We got our hair done together," says Kidman. "And we went shopping yesterday at Fred Segal and bought Bella her first pair of high heels."

12 p.m. Diane Lane begins primping, or what she calls "that interminable morphing from the worm to the butterfly." To help relax, "I did 10 minutes of yoga while my curlers were still in my hair," she says. "It made my head so heavy." As for boyfriend Josh Brolin, "I took five minutes" to get ready, he notes. "Then I watched the news and read Virginia Woolf."

Midday Among the stars luxuriating at the Estée Lauder suite at the Four Seasons hotel: Kathy Bates, indulging in a pedicure; and Adrien Brody, getting bronzed with a spray-on tan.

2:30 p.m. Just three hours until showtime, and Jennifer Lopez still hasn't decided what she'll wear. While the star ponders four different dresses, "I'm like, 'Jen, you've got to narrow this down for me!' " says her makeup artist Scott Barnes. "She always decides the second she walks out the door." When she finally settles on a seafoam-green Valentino, Barnes gets to work on her eyes—"I used reflective green eye shadow"—while hairstylist Oribe simultaneously crafts her do. Says Barnes: "We work like an engine."

2:32 p.m. Stylist Susan Moses arrives at Kathy Bates's house. Bates slips on her Eric Gaskins dress and shimmies in front of the mirror. "She does this dance whenever she's happy," says Moses. "She was in great spirits."

3:09 p.m. Halle Berry opens her front door to greet stylist Phillip Bloch. In light of current events he had previously located 50 conservative gowns for Berry to choose from, "but then the Academy asked people to wear their original dresses," he says. Berry, in gold Elie Saab, does just that.

3:14 p.m. Stylist Moses gets stopped by overzealous security guards while trying to make her way to Queen Latifah's suite at the Renaissance Hotel. They order her to unpack all the clothes she's carrying so they can inspect them. "I wanted to cry," says Moses, who finally makes it to her client's suite at 3:46 p.m. The Queen is dressed in 15 minutes flat.

3:40 p.m. Sally Kirkland is the first celeb to arrive at the Kodak Theatre, followed soon after by Mickey Rooney. Marlee Matlin and Jennifer Garner are not far behind.

4:03 p.m. Halle Berry's husband, Eric Benét, gets his first glimpse of his wife in all her Oscar glory. "Ohhh-kay!" he whoops. "You look amazing!"

4:30 p.m. On the carpet, Chad Lowe accidentally steps on wife Hilary Swank's foot. No damage done.

5:01 p.m. Queen Latifah air kisses Benét, then apologizes for it, motioning that she didn't want to mess up her makeup or gown. Berry, Benét and Latifah then look skyward as an LAPD helicopter buzzes overhead.

5:25 p.m. Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart arrive in a hybrid car and hurriedly rush inside the theater.

5:20 to 5:30 p.m. As the clock ticks down, the stars engage in a frenzy of last-minute meeting and greeting: Daniel Day-Lewis chats up John C. Reilly and then shares a laugh with Tim Robbins. Jack Nicholson, in his signature shades, and Nicolas Cage, chewing gum, walk in together and make their way to the front of the auditorium. Having been stopped earlier in the evening by a security guard who carefully scanned his ticket, Richard Gere takes out his wallet from his inside jacket pocket and asks his wife, Carey Lowell, to hold it in her purse. Anjelica Huston sips a glass of white wine before making her way to her seat.

5:27 p.m. Adrien Brody huddles with a circle of friends at the foot of the staircase in the lobby of the Kodak Theatre. Anxiously double-crossing his fingers, he says of his pose, "I like this." When a fan thanks him for his performance, Brody clutches his chest with a smile and nod.

5:28 p.m. It's two minutes to curtain and Renée Zellweger's front-row seat is conspicuously empty. Hovering just outside the double doors of the Kodak Theatre, Zellweger hunches over her silver cell phone and frantically dials. Undeterred by a busy signal on her first try—not to mention the regular "Take your seats" announcements over the loudspeaker—she tries again and finally gets through. "Hi, Mom and Dad! It's starting and I have to sit down so I'm just calling to say how much I love you," says Zellweger, smiling from ear to ear. "I love you so much and I'll call you guys later, okay? I love you! Bye!"

NICOLE KIDMAN Dubbed "Night Spider" by designer Jean Paul Gaultier, Kidman's deep-blue, slit-to-there sheath features weblike straps.

JENNIFER LOPEZ PICKED HER OUTFIT HOURS BEFORE SHOWTIME With several gowns still in the running, Lopez settled on this Valentino (inspired by one made for Jackie O) at the last minute—with not a hint of panic.

KATE HUDSON Hudson revealed that her bum-hugging gown by Versace "took 500 hours to make" and that "all the lace was made by hand."

JULIANNE MOORE CHANGED THE DRESS FROM ROSE TO GREEN Shown on the runway in rose in Tom Ford's latest collection for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, this strapless silk georgette number (with a cascade of ruffles) was made in emerald to set off Moore's red hair.

JENNIFER GARNER Garner left behind her tough-girl Alias in a delicate Atelier Versace gown covered with microcrystals and a Neil Lane diamond bracelet; she also left behind her husband, Scott Foley, and partied with a pal.

DAINE LANE PUT TWO DRESSES TOGETHER Lane says she spotted the top half of her Oscar de la Renta dress "when I was looking at the collection online. The bottom half was from another dress. I said, 'Can we make a deal?' I'm feeling so fabby in it."

RENEE ZELLWEGER Stopping short of full-on glamor, the Chicago star wore just one vintage Neil Lane ruby ring with her embroidered silk chiffon Carolina Herrera dress.

HALLE BERRY THOUGHT HER GOWN WAS TOO SEE-THROUGH Berry had asked Elie Saab to add more tulle to her $20,000 gown because "she thought it was too transparent," says a Saab spokesperson. In the last hour she vetoed flashy jewelry.

CAMERON DIAZ In a sharp departure from the oh-so-sexy minidress she wore to the Golden Globes, Diaz, presenting the night's first award, went for subdued elegance in a Prada dress.

MANDY MOORE Her vintage gown was just the right length to show off strappy Jimmy Choo shoes.

ANJELICA HUSTON A silk Versace—accented by satin tuxedo stripes—proved a perfect fit for this Hollywood grande dame.

JULIA ROBERTS BOUGHT HER '70S FROCK FROM A VINTAGE STORE She bought her 1970s Jean Jourban Paris dress at the Paper Bag Princess in West Hollywood three days in advance. The shop offered to lend it, but she wanted to own it.

JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT H. Stern's $11,000 diamond chandelier earrings—and $625 Sergio Rossi sandals—added voom to her Versace.

GARCELLE BEAUVAIS-NILON Designer Elie Saab (a Halle Berry fave) provided the gown; Bulgari the one-of-a-kind diamond bracelet.

GOING TOGETHER Oscars' crisply coordinated couples prove that even in turbulent times, some things are, indeed, black and white

SALMA HAYEK AND EDWARD NORTON CHOSE THIS AFTER HER FIRST GOWN WAS RIPPED After her original gown (a Narciso Rodriguez) was accidentally torn, she made a quick switch to this Carolina Herrera. "It's got white for peace," she says.

DENZEL AND PAULETTA WASHINGTON He bucked the one-button tux trend in a three-button Armani; she wore white Carmen Marc Valvo.

JENNIFER CONNELLY AND PAUL BETTANY The war had no effect on her choice of dress (a Calvin Klein). But at nearly five month pregnant, she needed him to "zip her up," he says.

MATCH GAME With color-coordinated shoes and bags, stars turned the bridesmaid look into true aisle style

HILARY SWANK Swank had her Christian Dior tulle frock and satin shoes custom-made—and then supplied a fabric swatch to Tod's to ensure her bag was dyed the right rosy shade.

KATHY BATES Her Kathrine Baumann bag and Stuart Weitzman mules blended with her silk Eric Gaskins gown.

MARCIA GAY HARDEN Gaskins says Harden went for "vivid color" with his chiffon creation, Jimmy Choo shoes and Baumann bag.

QUEEN LATIFAH TOTES A $2.9 MILLION DIAMOND-STUDDED CLUTCH She accessorized her Halston dress with Weitzman shoes, Baumann bag and 12-carat Harry Winston diamond earrings.

STUFFED SHIRTS

Ruffles on Oscar night! What would Jerry say?

SEAN CONNERY The Scotsman usually pairs his shirt with a kilt, "but my wife said I should wear it with trousers."

JANET JACKSON The singer went for a frill ride in a Versace shirt under a satin Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo.

JERRY SEINFELD Who knew his "puffy shirt" (from a '93 Seinfeld episode) was fashion forward?

FASHION STATEMENTS With the help of a sewing needle or a well-placed pin, these stars showed their true colors

MARTY INGELS
SUSAN SARANDON
MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY
ROB MARSHALL
FARRAH FAWCETT

Some attendees let their clothes do the talking—though Fawcett sent a mixed message with her patriotic train: It's a breach of etiquette to let the U.S. flag touch the ground.

CLEAN SWEEP

No prom dos or crown-jewel pendants: Style-setters relied on dramatic "statement" earrings—some, nearly shoulder-length—for glamor and fun. Pulled-back hair and pastel makeup gave the look a ladylike spin, while naked shoulders offered oomph.

JENNIFER LOPEZ's eyes echoed the sparkle of her Fred Leighton diamonds—$250,000 worth.

JULIANNE MOORE played on the dangling-earring theme with Boucheron baubles that matched her emerald gown.

KATE HUDSON's soft makeup set off her Leighton chandeliers—43 carats of diamonds worth about $200,000.

DIANE LANE went low-key with Leighton's pink angel-skin coral and diamond earrings. Price: about $75,000.

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES Rarely barenecked, she shone in Leighton's $18,000 coral, sapphire and diamond drops.

ON THE LOOSE As these three women show, letting your hair down doesn't have to mean a loss of control—or good taste

CAMERON DIAZ A soft side part kept the focus on her smoky eyes and red lips.

SALMA HAYEK Controlled waves highlighted her $67,500 Harry Winston diamond drops.

JENNIFER GARNER Sleek locks set off Neil Lane diamond hoops made for her unpierced ears.

STICKING HER NECK OUT

Other throats went unadorned, but Meryl Streep chose Fred Leighton's vintage Art Nouveau necklace with diamonds and emerald drops (value: about $150,000). Coupled with diamond earrings, the look proved that when you're one of Oscar's favorites, you can handle the competition.

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