By  on January 24, 2007

BEVERLY HILLS — Giorgio Armani is zeroing in on Cate Blanchett. Olivier Theyskens has already landed Reese Witherspoon for Nina Ricci. And Chanel is angling for one of the season's freshest faces, Rinko Kikuchi of "Babel."

Nominations for the 79th annual Academy Awards were announced here Tuesday and the red carpet rumble is on. This year's nominees — from Penélope Cruz to Kate Winslet to Jennifer Hudson and Blanchett — all have been praised for their performances and were considered shoo-ins. In addition, many are established players — Meryl Streep posted a record 14th nomination. Of course, Oscar dressing is nothing new for the veterans in the group and designers already have ideas on who will show them in their best light.

"As Cate Blanchett is also coming to my show [tonight], I would be delighted to dress such a modern woman, who I feel is also one of the most talented and inspirational actresses in Hollywood right now," Armani told WWD in Paris after seeing the list of nominees.

Later, at a cocktail party for his couture show, Armani added, "I think we are going to dress her."

He spoke as Blanchett was finishing scenes for her latest movie, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," in New Orleans, where Armani's private jet was waiting to take her to Paris. Her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, was passing time eating beignets, New Orleans' French Market doughnuts, with an Armani VIP executive set to accompany Blanchett to Paris.

The dress frenzy reached a crucial point last year when best actress winner Witherspoon bucked convention and went with a vintage Dior couture gown that she found and bought with her stylist in Paris. That was partly a reaction to the Golden Globes, where her victory was shadowed by the brouhaha over her wearing a Chanel couture dress that had been worn by Kirsten Dunst three years prior.

Witherspoon has struck a deal with Nina Ricci to wear its Theyskens-designed frocks during the entire awards season, the house confirmed on Tuesday. Witherspoon wore Nina Ricci's first Theyskens-designed dress — a knee-length yellow sheath — on the Golden Globes red carpet.

"Reese and I were thinking about a short dress that would be sharp and quite special without being too complicated,'' Theyskens told WWD. "She fell in love with the color of the fabric that we developed especially for Nina Ricci."

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