Byline: Merle Ginsberg and Natalie Rooney

LOS ANGELES — “We’re in a world where people just want to know what you’re wearing,” wailed Jamie Lee Curtis, as she arrived at the 67th Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium. “That’s all anybody’s asking me, that’s all anybody wants to know. I think it’s really, really sad,” she said, dressed to the hilt in a snug Pamela Dennis eggshell-yellow beaded gown, her hair carefully coiffed and her face meticulously made up in a pale palette.
And dressing to the hilt seemed to be the rule for most everybody this year. Moreover, Hollywood mainly left it to the experts. When asked why she wore the black silk strapless column dress by Calvin Klein, Sarah Jessica Parker replied, “Calvin told me to.”
The designers proved that they could nip and tuck with the best of Hollywood’s technicians. Tight-waisted, corseted, full-on ballgowns, complete with train and wrap, made last year’s just-rolled-out-of-bed slip parade look like another age.
“Ballgowns, ballgowns, ballgowns. Got to get me a ballgown, working for a ballgown, somebody get me a ballgown,” said Rita Wilson, in a black HervA Leger bandage dress with pearl decollete. She’d been pursued by many designers, but in the end wore her husband Tom Hanks’ top choice — though it only arrived from Paris at 11 on Oscar morning.
Wilson wasn’t the only one dazzled by the sheer tulle power and ballgown hoopla of Wendy Finerman’s black full-skirted Isaac Mizrahi, Sharon Stone’s silver Vera Wang with riding jacket, Sigourney Weaver’s corset-bodiced and bustled Lacroix, and Sally Field’s black and white Chanel with corset waist.
“I liked all those dresses that come in at the waist and go out,” said Jeremy Irons. “They’re good for a closeup, and good for a wide shot on television.”
Besides, tight presents its own problems. “I loved Kelly Preston’s dress,” said Sharon Stone of Preston’s plum tube strapless Oscar de la Renta. “But my hips are too big.”
Yet most of the women who went tight kept it classy. “I liked Annette Bening’s dress,” said Quentin Tarantino, of her fitted black tulle, silver, and pearl beaded Armani gown with high neck. “It was eye-popping.”
So was Jodie Foster’s dangerously similar va-va-voom beaded, skintight Armani. It introduced a whole new image for the usually serious Foster; the girl even put some lipstick on, for God’s sake.
“Annette and Jodie looked like they were wearing the same dress — how awful for them!” said Jennifer Tilly. She was wrong; actually, she and Vendela were wearing twin sequined Mizrahi mermaid halter gowns — Tilly’s in navy and Vendela’s in supermodel pink.
But it was no surprise to either of them. Mizrahi said he’d sent a photo of Vendela in the dress to Tilly, who replied that she wouldn’t mind at all if the model wore it on Oscar night.
In a class by herself was Ice Princess Uma Thurman, who got Miuccia Prada to design a couture Prada in her honor. She made everyone’s best-dressed list in her lavender chiffon floor length gown with ivory organza wrap, both sprinkled in opalescent beads.
“I didn’t know Prada made evening dresses,” said Sigourney Weaver to Thurman.
“They don’t,” answered Uma, “they just made this one.”
But Sigourney was absolutely fabulous herself in her much-admired gown, which she picked up last week in Paris. “I just wanted to be able to say, ‘Sweetie, darling, it’s Lacroix!” And she did, a number of times.
Richard Tyler continued to be a Hollywood favorite — but with mixed effect. He redefined the tuxedo, introducing the necktie in place of the bowtie, and made Denzel Washington look good, though Steven Spielberg’s version was a mistake. Another Tyler bomb was putting tall Tim Robbins in a shiny navy suit. But Susan Sarandon in slinky black crepe and Miranda Richardson in sleeveless green silk charmeuse looked great.
Elizabeth Hurley showed slightly less cleavage than usual, but her white-on-white sugar crystal-beaded Versace was one of the best dresses of the night. Gianni also had one of the worst. Any respectable Oscar telecast needs a fashion victim, and Jane Fonda in her Versace Queen of Hearts checkerboard ballgown complete with huge Hollywood hair fit the bill.
Opinion was divided over Oprah Winfrey’s chocolate-brown FerrA ballgown; some loved it, and some thought the mile-long tulle train was really off the tracks. Andie MacDowell looked pretty from the bust up, but the red and black Eavis & Brown empire-waist gown made her look a tad pregnant.
Dianne Wiest also could have chosen something more slimming than the black velvet and taffeta Donna Karan gown. Helen Mirren nearly ruined her nice cream Armani suit by topping it off with a silly veiled retro hat. And someone forgot to tell Holly Hunter — and Vera Wang — that white cutout mesh with a bra top is better suited for the beach.
Regardless of the dress, everyone was in synch on the trimmings: ubiquitous pastel clutch purses, strappy high-heeled sandals, satiny opera gloves, diamonds, diamonds, diamonds, no sunglasses (bad for photographs), and barely a red lip in sight. Glamour is as glamour does, as Gump would say: The make-up artists went for spring’s pink lips and smokier eyes instead of fall’s vampier look.
“Priscilla” costume designer — and Oscar winner — Lizzy Gardner bravely wore a go-go number made of American Express cards. When asked what she was wearing under all those cards, she said, “A big smile!”