March 3, 2006

Oscar fashions are a challenge from the inside out

By Alexandria Sage

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It's what you don't see the stars
wearing at the Oscars that really provides the va-va-voom on
the red carpet.

If a star wants to turn heads, she has to start with what
no one sees -- the perfect undergarment to build up the bosom
or minimize the backside.

Lingerie has joined the gowns, jewelry and handbags loaned
or given to actresses by firms eager for the publicity
associated with Sunday's Oscars and other awards shows. But
there are potential pitfalls, whether an ill-fitting garment,
or ill-mannered observer.

Designer Isaac Mizrahi, an awards show fashion commentator
for cable television, was so intrigued by Scarlett Johansson's
bra at the Golden Globes that he groped the actress's breast
while interviewing her.

Most stars' lingerie choices remain a mystery, but Keira
Knightley, Hilary Swank and Naomi Watts plan to wear a simple
G-string -- smaller than a thong -- underneath their gowns on
Oscar night, the Miami-based lingerie company Cosabella said.

Some figure challenges demand more elaborate solutions.

Finding the perfect lingerie for body-revealing gowns
"becomes difficult when the girl doesn't have a bust," said
Parisian lingerie designer Chantal Thomass, who uses foam
linings to pump up the decolletage.

But with too much up top, "it's not so beautiful," she


Robert Behar, who designed Dolly Parton's Oscar outfits,
said the secret often lies within the dress itself.

"When it comes to evening gowns, the most important is the
foundation that is built inside the dresses," said Behar, who
also has worked with stars Sharon Stone and Janet Jackson.

"If you need to have your dress changing parts of your
body, then you should build it within your dress," he said.

Stars at past awards shows have asked London-based lingerie
line Agent Provocateur for padded bras and corsets.

One woman with a 26-inch (66-cm) waist wanted a corset to
slim her to 22 inches. "She nearly passed out at the event,"
marketing head Jess Morris said. Another with a small bust wore
a padded bra that did too good a job.

"Nobody looked at her face the whole night," she said.

Unless she is going for a sexy "peek-a-boo" effect, no star
wants visible straps or panty lines and most avoid them.

Behar pointed to the "incredible execution" of the
strapless powder blue Chanel gown with a plunging back that
Nicole Kidman wore at the Oscars in 2004. "For days I looked at
that dress trying to figure out how it stayed (on)," he said.

As for the men of Hollywood, it is anyone's guess what's
underneath those tuxedos.

"Guys have it a lot easier," Behar said. Still, he
acknowledged a certain nostalgia for the golden days of
Hollywood when men, too, walked down the red carpet with
flatter waistlines.

"I wish we could go back to the 40s when guys were wearing
girdles," he said.