Without those “Desperate Housewives” vying for the same golden statuette, dressed to kill in a spectrum of satins, this year’s Emmys may not generate the paparazzi frenzies of years past. Still, nominees such as Debra Messing, Kyra Sedgwick, Mariska Hargitay and Sandra Oh are always red carpet head-turners, and there are some formidable, fashion-conscious femmes (Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Blythe Danner, Helen Mirren) up for awards as well.
What the event may lack in primetime glitz (and gossip) will be more than made up for in true-blue Hollywood glamour.
Several top celebrity stylists are in the midst of that all-important search for “the” outfit, which looks and designers they were considering this year, and how they try to express their clients’ personalities through the clothes.
Also, since the ceremony is being held during the dog days of August, how significant are concerns such as comfort and beating the heat?
Jessica Paster, who has styled supporting actress nominee Allison Janney since the early “West Wing” days, offers one approach.
“I’m never concerned about comfort,” she says with a chuckle. “I think the most gorgeous dress should be the one that she wears — as long as she can walk. I’ve sewn many a person into a dress!”
For the 5-foot-8 Janney, Paster was leaning toward a 1940s look with a modern edge. “She’s so tall and lithe that I always like to show her figure and use beautiful colors on her,” says the stylist. Her short list includes Randolph Duke, Vera Wang and Oscar de la Renta.
When it comes to jewels, Paster’s passion is for pieces with a history: “I will always be a vintage jewelry girl.” Paster begins her treasure hunting at Fred Leighton and Neil Lane.
For lead actress nominee Geena Davis’ stylist, this year begins and ends with the bling.
“The truth of the matter is, we are choosing our dress based entirely on our jewelry,” says Vivian Turner, revealing her recent discovery of Chris Aire, jeweler to Kanye West and Jamie Foxx. “There were these marquis-cut diamonds, 35 carats each, on wires. They were so badass,” she gushes. “And you haven’t seen it on somebody like Geena.”
Turner was on the lookout for a gown that was “clean and modern, sexy and simple, in a beautiful matte jersey or a silk charmeuse,” perhaps by Donna Karan. Obviously the neckline is important when jewelry is front and center, but so is fit: “I just want her to be comfortable without being stuffed into a corset.”
Comfort also is key for Tom Broecker, who describes his longtime client Lisa Kudrow as “a jeans girl if ever there was a jeans girl,” which translates onto the red carpet as classic, understated and elegant.
“The ‘more’ with her becomes troublesome,” Broecker says of “The Comeback” nominee. “The more ruffles, the more feathers, the more straps … What looks good on Lisa are long lines, flowing gowns with long deep V’s, the simpler the better.” Some favorite looks came from Bill Blass and Kevan Hall.
Broecker reveals that it’s been tough to get dresses this year, as the event is scheduled three weeks before fashion week instead of immediately after. “Usually it’s right off the runway into the Emmys,” he says, “but this year it’s reversed.”
Of course there are plenty of frocks to go round, and ultimately it’s just a matter of finding something gorgeous one can sit in “for 18 hours,” Broecker jokes. “It’s such a stressful night for everyone. The more at ease Lisa can be and feel in something that makes her look stunning — that’s the trick.”
If it’s virtually impossible to imagine the coolly elegant Candice Bergen stressing out over anything, that’s thanks to Jane Ross, her stylist of 20 years. At this point Ross intuitively knows what will and won’t work for Bergen, who is keenly interested in other cultures but also likes designs that are classic.
“She is an interesting, intelligent, authentic person, so her style reflects that,” explains Ross, who dressed Bergen in a strapless Bill Blass gown years ago when she was nominated for “Murphy Brown” and paired a navy Oscar de la Renta number with an antique snake bracelet.
Ross cites a recent Golden Globes ensemble of a ball skirt worn with a cashmere sweater and coral jewelry as another perfect example of how Bergen “can take something simple and make it her own.” She adds, “That’s why designers like celebrities — because of their personality and all they bring to the clothing.”
For someone like Bergen, who has her own jewelry collection, excessive borrowing is just “silly.” However, Ross is keeping a mental wish list.
If a certain green chiffon gown is chosen, “I want her to wear blue jewels, but not necessarily your typical sapphire. I like lapis at the moment.” This team would rather invent a look than jump on the latest trend.
Says Ross, “It’s more of a dream in our own heads, and then we go and find it.”