LOS ANGELES — It's usually the shot heard around the fashion world.
But the writers' strike, which scuttled the Golden Globes gala, loomed over the Oscar nominations and its red carpet on Tuesday.
Despite the walkout and world economic upheaval, fashion houses, with fingers crossed, began readying samples and sketches. In the midst of the couture shows in Paris and the upcoming ready-to-wear shows, most were noncommittal on the record.
"If [the Oscars' red carpet] is canceled, being one of the most important global events of the year, there will be less important red-carpet visibility for all designers," said Donatella Versace, who usually dresses several major stars on the big day. "Of course, there will be more opportunities to show Versace on celebrities, but the most important thing is that the problems are resolved and the movie industry can go back to work."
With this year's crop of nominees, there also were rumblings that presenters could be better fashion targets, along with nominees' dates, such as Penélope Cruz, the girlfriend of best supporting actor nominee Javier Bardem.
"We look at nominees and presenters as equal opportunities for celebrity dressing," said Malcolm Carfrae, Calvin Klein Inc.'s senior vice president of global communications.
A spokesman for Michael Kors said, "We have been approached by people who plan to attend, and are actively pursuing several of the nominees. We are also anxious to see who will be presenting."
As pressure mounts to resolve the 12-week-old writers' strike that has crippled movie and television production, the Academy of Motion Picture Art and Sciences is moving forward with mapping out the awards show, to be broadcast live by ABC on Feb. 24. However, the academy is circumspect on contingency plans if the stars don't appear because of a picket line. The Writers Guild of America has waived picketing at Sunday's Screen Actors Guild awards presentation.
"I am very hopeful that a solution will be found because the evening has become a must for the movie business, but also for the fashion industry, which has an opportunity to show itself at its best, both on the red carpet and during the parties later in the evening," Alberta Ferretti said.For YSL, the Oscars represent "an opportunity, but it doesn't make or break us,'' a spokesman said. "Yves Saint Laurent has never been that house that takes racks of clothing to an event to dress everyone. It's about focused relationships," such as the one the fashion house has with Julianne Moore.
Double nominee Cate Blanchett has strong ties to Giorgio Armani, whom she wore last year as a presenter. Her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, likely has a look in mind, but Blanchett is known for mixing it up with Givenchy, Rodarte, Valentino, Versace, Alexander McQueen and YSL.
Apart from Blanchett, a best supporting actress winner for "The Aviator" in 2005, the field is open with new faces and fresh fashion choices. Best actress nominee Marion Cotillard, who doesn't work with a stylist, has worn her fair share of Chanel, a house known for locking down actresses early in the game. But she was in Nina Ricci at the recent Critics' Choice awards here and wore Giorgio Armani to the European Film Awards in Berlin. Expect to see her in a couture creation from a French design house.
Julie Christie, another best actress nominee who dresses herself, is a bit of an enigma because she hasn't been a red-carpet regular of late, but she looked elegant and timeless at the National Board of Review awards in Manhattan.
Red-carpet regular and best actress nominee Laura Linney, who has favored simple black, red and navy gowns from Prada and Valentino, might look to change things this year.
"The Oscars this year is the perfect place for her to look like the intelligent, talented woman that she is,'' said Linney's longtime stylist Jane Ross. "Because it's been an interrupted season, maybe this year is the time to have some fun and be a little irreverent. The best part about fabulous clothes and Hollywood coming together is that it's about having a good time and not taking it so seriously. That's how Laura feels, and that is what we are going to do."
Perhaps the biggest question mark is the fifth and youngest best actress nominee, Ellen Page, 20. She recently started working with stylist Samantha McMillen, who also dresses Charlize Theron. Page has worn Derek Lam and Dolce & Gabbana at the awards show rounds, but has yet to step out in anything more than a simple knee-length gray or black cocktail dress. Page has said she's not much of a clotheshorse, so this could be her big opportunity to surprise.In the supporting actress category, Blanchett is joined by fashion unknowns: Ruby Dee, 13-year-old Saoirse Ronan and Amy Ryan. Only Tilda Swinton, who has a longtime relationship with Viktor & Rolf, is almost sure to make a fashion-forward statement. Ryan will be working with stylist Annabel Tollman, who has dressed Scarlett Johansson for the Oscars and is known for adventurous choices that show off her clients' best attributes.
But as much as designers woo and prepare, and as much as everyone would like a crystal ball this instant, the choices that matter are made by the actresses at the 11th hour.
Christian Lacroix, who dressed last year's best actress winner Helen Mirren, said the house generally starts working with stylists the week of the Oscars. Stars are, after all, privy to whims.
"It's the stars who decide what they want to wear, not us who we want to dress,'' Lacroix said.
— With contributions from Allesandra Ilari and Luisa Zargani, Milan; Katya Foreman, Paris, and Marc Karimzadeh, New York
Best Actress Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" Julie Christie, "Away From Her" Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose" Laura Linney, "The Savages" Ellen Page, "Juno"
Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There" Ruby Dee, "American Gangster" Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement" Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone" Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"
Best Costume Design "Across the Universe," Albert Wolsky "Atonement," Jacqueline Durran "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," Alexandra Byrne "La Vie en Rose," Marit Allen "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," Colleen Atwood Best Makeup "La Vie en Rose," Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald "Norbit," Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Ve Neill and Martin Samuel
BLANCHETT PHOTO BY Daniele Venturelli/WireImage; Christie by Jim Spellman/WireImage; Cotillard by Todd Williamson/WireImage; Linney by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage; Page by Steve Eichner