Style Watch

updated 10/06/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/06/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

SHOW TIME!

When American designers and the celebs who love them hit New York City on Sept. 12 for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, the mood was giddy, the catwalks abuzz, and the freebies were fab. Unveiling spring looks that were color-drenched, feminine and upbeat, the collections drew hipsters like Sofia Coppola, along with stars like Claire Danes, Kelly Ripa and Brooke Shields. Hurricane warnings or no, the show folk were wowed by what they saw and didn't see: "It's amazing that the models' [behinds] don't jiggle when they walk," mused Jessica Simpson. "It makes you want to go jump on the treadmill."

BY THE NUMBERS

183 shows

8 attended by TLC's Chilli

800 pairs of fake Liza lashes handed out by M.A.C at Heatherette

72,576 bottles of Fiji water consumed

1 tune ("The Candy Man") breathily sung by Scarlett Johansson at Cynthia Rowley

FRONT ROW

For style-mad celebs like Hilary Swank and Salma Hayek, front-row seats are the only way to go. Schmoozing, cruising, being seen—what else would you do at a fashion show?

Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford (her director in The Horse Whisperer) at Kenneth Cole.

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey at Tommy Hilfiger.

Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Geller at Hilfiger.

Mischa Barton at Matthew Williamson.

Red alert: Salma Hayek at Carolina Herrera's show.

BACKSTAGE
At the close of each show, celebs rushed to embrace, air-kiss and compliment designer pals (and, of course, each other). Later, pumped-up insiders communed at glittering afterparties: "It's no different than the Emmys or the Golden Globes," said Lorraine Bracco.

SPRING'S TOP TRENDS
1. Colors: bright yellows and pale pastels, plus preppy pinks and greens mixed with white

2. Dresses: flirty chiffon, '20s flapper, strapless for evening

3. Accessories: Flower pins and ribbon ties

WINNERS CIRCLE

Surrounded by style experts at every turn, stars at the shows have even more reason than usual to fret about making a fashion faux pas. Exhibiting extreme chic, however, were Chloë Sevigny, Sarah Wynter and Demi Moore, who sailed through the week like pros.

SARAH WYNTER in Peter Som at his show.

DEMI MOORE in Oscar de la Renta at Saks Fifth Avenue's Key to the Cure.

It girl: Beyoncé
Reigning as the week's diva (a.k.a. most-wanted star seat warmer) was Beyoncé Knowles. Whether making an entrance with her bodyguards or her beau, Jay-Z, Knowles did the circuit like a veteran—even choosing a Badgley Mischka dress right off the runway to wear to a premiere the next day.

Behind the Seams

WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?
At the Diesel StyleLab show, Britney Spears shows how being a trend slave can't stand in for style. In an '80s-revival sweaterdress and this-minute over-the-knee boots, she looks bulky and under-dressed. At least her bra matches her boots—but is that really a good thing?

TICKET TO RIDE: Fatigued fashionistas who rolled out of bed to make it to Kate Spade's 8 a.m. press breakfast during Fashion Week were rewarded for their effort: Tucked into Spade's gift bags were round-trip tickets on new Song Airlines, a Delta offshoot that flies to Florida and other fab spots. How chic is Song? Well, Kate designed the smart uniforms for female flight attendants, while her husband, Andy, created outfits for the men. Style, in Spades!

ALL DOLLED-UP: Patty Hearst was beaming when her daughter, 19-year-old Lydia Hearst-Shaw, hit the catwalk at Zang Toi's N.Y.C. show on Sept. 13. Lydia, who had modeled earlier at Helen Yarmak, says she's been fashion-mad forever: "I wanted to be Barbie." Her mom approves—she took Lydia to interview at Ford when she was just 17. Still, she worries. "It's a tough business," says Hearst. At any rate, the college sophomore's playing it safe for now. "School comes first," Lydia says. "If anything goes wrong, it's important to have your education to fall back on." (Right, Mom?)

Oh, goody!

Fashion Week isn't just clothes, models and star sightings—it's about swag too. Gift bags that people got grabby over:
1. At new designer Jeffrey Chow's Cartier-mansion show, Cartier gave away its new scent.
2. Designer Jennifer Nicholson (Jack's daughter) handed out briefs.
3. Snazzy pillows on chairs at the Lacoste show were swept up by the armload.

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