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Costumed revelers at Marc Jacobs‘ annual holiday bash­ took this year’s Venetian Carnival theme so much to heart that it felt like everyone was partying as if the city of canals would be underwater by morning.

There were gondoliers galore, harlequins bounding about and women dressed in corsets so tight they could barely speak. “I can breathe, but I can’t really move,” whispered Lisa Airan, dressed in a traditional Venetian gown originally created for Sophia Loren.

The tiny-waisted socialite wasn’t the only partygoer to forsake comfort for costume. “Robert [Duffy] told me I should just spray-paint myself gold and go naked,” said Jacobs, whose constraining pigeon getup was in honor of all the birds in Piazza San Marco. “But I won’t host a party unless I’m the most uncomfortable person in the room.”

The designer had Duffy to thank for the evening’s lavish theme. “I had to think of one in 30 seconds or less,” Duffy explained. “I said to Marc, ‘How about Venice Carnival?’ He said no, and I said, ‘Shut up.'”

Good for Duffy, because in the end, all Jacobs’ staff and friends, including Lapo Elkann, Allison Sarofim and Lars Nilsson, embraced the night with gusto. As confetti and feathers rained down from the domed ceiling of New York’s Gotham Hall, a group of courtesans and their masked suitors began a studied waltz, which many in the crowd joined in on, albeit stumbling on their two left feet.

Other guests simply admired each other’s inspired creations. One skyscraping couple came as French poodles, while a clever foursome barreled in dressed as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (each one is named after a famous Italian painter, after all). But it was the curvy, topless girls and muscular G-stringed boys gyrating on the podiums whom everyone really ogled. “I can’t stop looking at their asses,” Rachel Roy laughed.

Meanwhile, at the Gramercy Park Hotel, Vogue and the Diamond Trading Co. hosted a birthday party for Milla Jovovich in the space destined to be the hotel’s new restaurant, Park Chinois. Jovovich was a gracious guest of honor, greeting friends such as Harvey Weinstein, Georgina Chapman, Margherita Missoni and a slew of male and female models. But she revealed she didn’t have much practice.

This story first appeared in the December 15, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“The last time I celebrated my birthday I was 13,” laughed Jovovich, who officially turns 31 on Sunday. “I’ve pretty much always been working on my birthday or flying back from somewhere, so I usually just have a quiet dinner with family. But Vogue called me, and what Anna [Wintour] wants, Anna gets.”

Besides, the actress-designer has plenty of things on her mind other than her birthday. She just bought a house in Los Angeles with her fiancé, Paul W.S. Anderson, which she describes as “Spanish hacienda style — I want it to look like the Chateau Marmont,” and has a new puppy schnauzer named Oliver Cromwell.

As for party guests, the main worry was what to get the birthday girl. Luckily for Jovovich, at least one gift was taken care of as the DTC presented her with one of its right-handed diamond rings, a 3-carat, Caressa-cut stunner, designed by Taché, which Jovovich proudly flashed (along with her engagement ring) as she danced and mingled.

Partner Carmen Hawk mused about giving her one of her multimedia paintings, while Amy Smart, in town filming “Life in Flight” with Patrick Wilson, was just happy to catch up with her longtime buddy.

“We’ve known each other since I was 13,” said the chocolate-tressed Smart. “I have no idea what to get her.”

On the West Coast that same night, a bevy of black-clad beauties filed into L.A.’s Chateau Marmont for a party hosted by Dolce & Gabbana and Penélope Cruz to launch an online auction of four of Cruz’s Dolce & Gabbana gowns to benefit the art charity du jour, Art of Elysium. Almost every clotheshorse in Hollywood — including Salma Hayek, Mia Maestro, Sharon Stone, Ginnifer Goodwin, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Mischa Barton — jumped at the chance to don a clingy dress by the designers and size up the competition.

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