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LOS ANGELES — Could the Golden Globes be a game changer?

According to celebrity stylists who are kicking the gown search into high gear after Tuesday’s nominations, the 2011 awards season could be the one where designers finally break the red-carpet mold.

This story first appeared in the December 15, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“The days of the beaded, silvery, gown-y thing are kind of done,” said Jeanne Yang, who counts three nominees among her clients, whom she declined to name. “I don’t see anyone wanting that.”

Rather, Yang and other stylists heralded bright color and softer silhouettes, both a drastic change from the body-hugging, strapless mermaid gowns in silver, gold and black of years past.

“A lot of the spring collections had vibrant, beautiful colors. Hopefully we will see a lot of that, plus softer silhouettes,” said Jessica Paster, who pointed to collections by Dolce & Gabbana and Dior as key directions for red-carpet season. Paster also guessed that one top actress would wear Tom Ford (Annette Bening) and “that will bring the chic factor so much higher.”

If not Bening, then there’s an assortment of big-name fashion plates sans designer contracts from which to choose: Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Angelina Jolie, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway and Julianne Moore.

Best-actress nominee (and odds-on favorite to sweep the season) Natalie Portman’s recent deal with Dior makes her gown choice less of a mystery (although there is always Rodarte), but the influx of newcomers and hip young actors bound for the Globes also adds to the excitement. Mila Kunis and Emma Stone have yet to have their definitive red-carpet moments, so expectations and potential are high.

“Michelle, Emma and Mila are all cool and sophisticated and they can wear fun and playful things, maybe short or ultramodern,” said Yang. “Same with the boys — Andrew Garfield, Jesse Eisenberg and James Franco could funk it up.”

Cristina Ehrlich, who is dressing nominees Amy Adams, Tina Fey,and Julianna Margulies, said, ” For the Golden Globes I would like to focus on a sleek, fitted silhouette — not to say there should be a complete departure from full, voluminous dresses which are always fun. But for the veterans of the red carpet and Golden Globes being the beginning of several red-carpet appearances — starting off the season with a streamlined option is the direction I am likely to be taking.” This may mean that the game-changing statement silhouettes are being saved for the Oscar finale.

Ehrlich said she often plans on custom-made gowns. “Award season commences right before designers show their new collections. At this point in the year we are well accustomed to what designers currently have to offer, so custom creations not only provide fresh and new options for nominees but allow the designer, stylist and celebrity to work in collaboration,” she said.

For men, Yang predicts a departure from the traditional black tuxedo with peaked lapel in favor of shawl collars; boxy, modern, American-cut suits à la Band of Outsiders, and perhaps even some color.

But for fashion, the red carpet has always been the actresses’ stage, and this year many eyes will be on best-actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence, star of the indie drama “Winter’s Bone.” Her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart, will be ordering a custom dress, but Stewart’s red-carpet gut check could indicate which way Lawrence will go.

“It’s going to be fun to see the limits pushed this time, to see designers go off the beaten path,” said Stewart. “I think the gradient-colored dresses that Juan Carlos Obando did would be beautiful, and it was an incredible season for Dolce & Gabbana with that soft, feminine aesthetic.”

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