TV’s Next-Gen Top 10

Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston and their now-iconic senses of style may be relegated to syndication, but TV viewers this season will hardly go without great — or, at least, entertaining — fashion moments. After all, Debra Messing,...

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Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston and their now-iconic senses of style may be relegated to syndication, but TV viewers this season will hardly go without great — or, at least, entertaining — fashion moments. After all, Debra Messing, Tracee Ellis Ross and Jennifer Garner return to their chart-topping, clothes-minded shows.

And Heather Locklear is back with “LAX,” while Kelly Osbourne makes her network, and true acting, debut with the teen dramedy “Life as We Know It.”

Yet with a seismic shift under way on the air waves and the red carpet, WWD is marking the fifth anniversary of its TV’s Top 10 Style Setters by recognizing the next generation — with some tips from designers on how their looks should evolve.

— Rose Apodaca Jones and Marcy Medina

Marsha Thomason

She’s among the hot young things lighting up NBC’s “Las Vegas” as the casino pit boss with the jackpot smile. Yet Marsha Thomason stands apart from the pack of buxom babes of Monday’s must-see indulgence with her cool hang-with-the-boys attitude and that British accent.

No surprise, then, that the Manchester, U.K., native is a fixture around L.A.’s night scene, but always as one of the crowd rather than seeking the spotlight like other wild-child starlets. Her signature mix of Kangol caps, unusual jewelry, vintage and designers, however, draws its share of flattering attention. On the red carpet, she’s gone from Dior to Project Alabama, Costume National to BCBG.

“She has a strong sense of personal style,” said Cameron Silver of Decades, where Thomason’s last purchase was a bright blue Zandra Rhodes. “She’s a little bit more sophisticated than most newcomers. Of course, she’s only new in the States.”

While her American film gigs are more a reflection of the state of minority roles in Hollywood (“My Baby’s Mama,” “Haunted Mansion”), Thomason’s roles in Britain have tended toward the dramatic, or at least demanding, from “Prime Suspect” to London’s West End stage.

“She’s the kind of the girl that doesn’t obsess over who the designers are, but rather whether it looks right on her,” said friend Phillip Bloch. “I think it has a lot to do with that British thing, where she can throw something on eclectic and wear it with the kind of attitude that makes it just look amazing.”

This story first appeared in the September 21, 2004 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Samaire Armstrong

Spunky, superstylish Samaire Armstrong, 23, earned a fan base on Fox’s “The O.C.” that’s followed her to HBO and the comedy series “Entourage.”

TV shows or personal style, Armstrong’s got a knack for hitting a trend before it becomes tired, then moving on to the next. Maybe it’s because she sews her own clothes. But designers such as Azria want to see her in their looks.

Said Max Azria: “Samaire has great personal style and inner confidence, and seems to go for looks that are edgy and eclectic. I think she’d look fantastic in a shorter length dress, something a little irreverent that others might not be able to pull off.”

True, there are few who can pull off the itsy-bitsy skirts, diaphanous tops and funky leggings that Armstrong wears like a second skin, but Carmen Marc Valvo says he’d like to see the pixie-ish actress try something a bit more classic.

“Samaire is so sweet and flirtatious,” says the New York designer, “I’d like to see her in something with swing to it —something Audrey Hepburn would have worn.”

Mischa Barton

Hands down, 18-year-old Mischa Barton is today’s fashion “It” girl. As the star of a hit show, “The O.C.” (which returned teen fashion to the airwaves), her personal style and off-camera dressing have catapulted her onto the pages and covers of magazines.

“Mischa is at the forefront of a new generation of young actresses who are embracing fashion,” said Alberta Ferretti. “Her style is eclectic, and at the same time very feminine and elegant. She is sophisticated for her age.”

Sophisticated, indeed, Valentino agreed. “Mischa feels comfortable in high fashion. Her youthful innocence allows her to wear very sexy designs. I would very much like to see her in one of our fall 2004 Helmut Newton-inspired looks that would give her an edge.”

Elie Saab is another designer who would like to see Barton break out, because he believes “she can pull off almost anything, even a very severe look.”

Halston’s Bradley Bayou couldn’t agree more. “I would like to see her glam it up. She is too beautiful of a woman to not show off on the red carpet.”

Molly Sims

She’s worked her way into living rooms from “Old Navy” ad pitch model to prime-time star as the smart yet sexy daughter on the NBC hit “Las Vegas.” Yet Sims has been racking up the fashions points both as the featured face of Cover Girl and as the designer-clad, all-American starlet on the red carpet.

“Molly Sims has a gorgeous face and beautiful smile,” Valentino noted.

In fact, the pearly Cheshire smile; long, blonde locks, and reed-thin bikini body have drawn comparisons with legendary girls-you-wished-live-next-door Farrah Fawcett and Cheryl Tiegs. For friend Michael Kors, the 30-year-old Kentucky native reminds him of another American icon: “Molly reminds me of a young Lauren Hutton. She always blends the idea of something sporty and something sexy and definitely has fun with fashion.”

Emanuel Ungaro’s Giambattista Valli agreed: “I love the confidence in her femininity. She dresses in Ungaro sometimes, and I like the way she dresses like a real woman.”

Portia de Rossi

Be it Stella McCartney or Vivienne Westwood, Roberto Cavalli or Valentino, Portia de Rossi loves fashion as much as it loves her curvaceous figure. “She looks provocative but never trashy,” said Michael Kors, another de Rossi favorite.

The former “Ally McBeal” star has kept her rank in Hollywood as one of the kooky siblings on Fox’s quirky dysfunctional-family comedy, “Arrested Development.” In its first year for nomination eligibility, the show was up for seven Emmys and won five, including one for best comedy series.

“It is refreshing to see such an elegant woman on such a smart and clever program,” said Alberta Ferretti. “Portia has a swan-like beauty that complements her style. She looks beautiful in soft and feminine fabrics such as chiffon.”

Valentino, who’s dressed the 31-year-old Aussie native for the Golden Globes, pointed to de Rossi’s “height, fair complexion and long blonde hair — it’s impossible for her to look anything but stunning.”

Her fans would like to see her turn it up even more. “Because she is such a beautiful woman,” said Halston’s Bradley Bayou, “I would love to see her bring more glamour onto the red carpet.”

The award shows aside, de Rossi has a big-screen date next year, when Wes Craven’s werewolf-loose-in-L.A. thriller, “Cursed,” opens. She plays opposite Christina Ricci and a parade of pop cult figures.

Classic beauty and flaxen hair notwithstanding, Kors believes one asset stands above the rest: “Portia has the best accessory any woman could ask for: a strong sense of self-confidence.”

Ashlee Simpson

She might be Jessica’s younger sister, but in recent months, Ashlee Simpson has managed to carve out her own identity — musically and stylistically. In fact, she proved her staying power on the nation’s pop charts this summer when her first album, the pop-rock “Autobiography,” hung in for a month — dropping a spot only when a compilation of Top 40 hits featuring older sis Jessica entered the fray.

The transformation of Simpson, who turns 20 on Oct. 3, is reportedly more organic than studied; the real Ashlee emerged after three sugary years as a regular on the WB TV series “Seventh Heaven.” She was, after all, during that time a big fan of punk acts Green Day and Bad Religion.

She went black from blonde. Her look pulls from punk and Eighties-flavored New Wave. And she didn’t back off from showing a bit of sass in the MTV reality show, “Ashlee,” chronicling the recording and launch of her album.

“I think she has great style,” enthused Jennifer Nicholson, who dressed Simpson in a cream cashmere hand-loomed lace minidress for the recent MTV Video Music Awards in Miami. “The contrast with her dark hair — she is just adorable.”

Bradley Bayou agreed: “I like how Ashlee uses fashion to play up her youthfulness and fun personality.” The Halston designer believes she can reach even higher in her style cues. “I would like to see Ashlee keep her young, sweet quality but add a little more sophistication to her look.”

Elisha Cuthbert

The petite and pouty Canadian actress is just 21, but Elisha Cuthbert has been making the red carpet rounds for four years, thanks to her hit Fox series, “24.” In 2005 she hits the film premiere circuit with the remake of “House of Wax” and the drama “Dot.”

“Elisha clearly has a sense of how to wear a dress on the red carpet. I love her in bold color and chiffon,” said Valentino, picking up on two of the actress’ favorite things.

But she also never hesitates to try a new look, and she has the confidence to pull it off. “I find Elisha to be a true style-setter, because she is not afraid to take chances,” said Collette Dinnigan, who dressed her in an Eighties punk party dress for the 2002 Golden Globes. “I was excited to see her choose such a playful look for an awards show. And she got rave reviews for it.”

Cuthbert embraces her youth and never tries to dress beyond her years. Yet Elie Saab admitted he “would like to see her continue to experiment and become even more glamorous as she gets older.”

Alexis Bledel

This 23-year-old “Gilmore Girl” is surely fashion’s sweetheart. Her creamy skin and rosy cheeks are her best features, and her simple style highlights them, said Azria, who dressed the actress for the Teen Choice Awards.

“I think her porcelain complexion would look stunning in rich, bright colors. I would dress her in something feminine and flowing, like one of my silk charmeuse gowns in aquamarine or plum,” he said.

Most designers agreed they wouldn’t overpower her natural charm with severe clothes. “Alexis is just so refreshing that we would want to keep her looking that way, nothing too daring. Maybe even something short,” suggested Carmen Marc Valvo.

But Ghost’s Tanya Sarne sees other possibilities. “I would like to see her do something very different…something over the top to show that she has great range.” Of course, her poise and slender 5-foot, 7-inch frame make anything possible, and so does a past career as a model.

With four films set to release in the next year — including the Jane Austin-Bollywood remake “Bride and Prejudice” hitting theaters this fall — she’ll have plenty of opportunities to hone her style.

Amber Tamblyn

She’s most definitely television’s new drama queen, earning a Best Actress nod in the sophomore year of her show, “Joan of Arcadia.” The 21-year-old also has gotten attention for her fashion choices, which veer toward the feminine and colorful.

“The first year at the awards, she was the new, young princess. This year we [looked] at it differently,” said her stylist, Tod Hallman. “It’s more young-adult sophisticated beauty. That Oscar de la Renta party dress silhouette is still amazing, but we are also looking at a sleeker side. We want to show how she’s evolved.”

Max Azria suggested, “Amber would look beautiful in a classic silhouette. I would design something simple but luxurious for her, in an eye-catching color like jade or indigo.”

Carmen Marc Valvo concurred: “Amber can really glam it up for the red carpet,” he said, adding that the actress also has a flair for choosing fun, casual looks, as well. Nony Tochterman, who designs one of Tamblyn’s favorite lines, Petro Zillia, said, “I love Amber’s sense of style and sensibility for timing. She knows when to dress down for Saturday morning coffee and when to dress up for the red carpet. She’s one beauty who’s not afraid to wear color and let her personal style shine!”

Lake Bell

After last season’s stint on “The Practice,” Lake Bell is back on David E. Kelly’s courtroom sequel, “Boston Legal,” also on ABC and bowing Oct. 3.

Lake — who’s frequently likened to a young Frankie Rayder — will reprise her role as the seductively feisty attorney Sally Heep. It’s only the latest in a short yet packed career, which started on the London stage, where she honed her range of accents, and has included the TV drama “War Stories.” For “Boston Legal,” however, she’s easily slipping into Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan and Chanel.

“Lake has an exotic beauty and a warm personality, and it is very much reflected on the outside — she is a great one,” said Elie Saab, who dressed her in couture for this year’s Golden Globes, as well as for other events. “I would like to see her in a full-length glamourous gown…which will show both her inner and outer beauty.”

While the 25-year-old Gotham native incorporates new designer pieces into her off-set wardrobe, she’s also an avowed vintage addict. Paper Bag Princess, Wasteland and Decades are among her regular haunts in Los Angeles.

“She can make a simple Stephen Burrows dress look like a million dollars, because she has the body of a supermodel,” said Decades owner Cameron Silver, who’s also sold her plenty of Ossie Clark and Forties-era looks. “She’s a dream to put clothes on.”

4: Number of Monique Lhuillier gowns — most of any other designer on the red carpet.

1: Number of vintage Christian Dior (on Jorja Fox and courtesy of The Paper Bag Princess).

12: Judith Leiber bags.

7: Daniel Swarovski bags.

$30,000: Value of the vintage Kwiat diamond brooch on Joely Richardson’s evening bag

$185: Retail value of the “Nip/Tuck” star’s custom-made lambskin bag by Surly Girl.

27: Number of karats in Sharon Stone’s Kwiat earrings. $160,000: Value of Stone’s Kwiat rocks.

27: Number of karats in Loraine Bracco’s Chopard “Pushkin” earrings.

$855,000: Value of that pair.

5: Number of Emmy nods Sarah Jessica Parker received during six years of “Sex and the City.”

1: Number of Emmy trophies.

4: Number of Golden Globe trophies

15,000: Number of cocktail napkins at the Governor’s Ball.

22: Number of bartenders there.

10,000: Yards of fabric used to swathe tables at the ball.

1,200: Pounds of steak au poivre served during dinner.

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