| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES With the Oscars days away, Hollywood is primping for its annual red-carpet fashion parade where stars like Penelope Cruz and Nicole Kidman are expected to dazzle fans in elegant gowns of bold colors.
What exactly they will wear on Sunday is one of the top secrets kept by the fashion world's elite designers, but one thing is certain: the stars' goal is to be fabulous.
Academy Awards fashion coordinator Patty Fox predicted this red carpet would be "the biggest fashion show on Earth." While that may be hype, designers, cosmetic makers, jewelers and others are courting the stars hoping to win global attention for their brands.
"Every woman, when they have this amazing moment on the red carpet, they want to have the best dress," said Juliana Cairone of Rare Vintage, a New York boutique frequented by actresses in search of glamorous, sophisticated looks from the past.
Cairone, who supplied the flowing Hermes gown worn by Angelina Jolie at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, predicted Grecian-inspired gowns, strapless and one-shoulder necklines, and sexy Bohemian looks for some of the younger nominees.
"We're not going to see anything flashy, we won't see anything racy," Cairone said. "I think we'll see very beautiful dresses. There will be a level of sophistication and elegance."
Bright yellow, cobalt and purple have been the colors of the catwalk this year, and they promise to turn heads on Oscar's red carpet. Supermodel Heidi Klum has pledged to wear a bright red Galliano dress to benefit a sweepstakes promoting awareness of women's heart disease.
Scarlet red was Kidman's choice last year, so this year the Australian actress will surely mix it up. Spanish star Cruz sported a cascading ruffled train on her blush-colored Versace in 2007. Maybe this year she'll opt for a more vivid shade?
BOLD, BUT NOT SO BEAUTIFUL
Being bold and being fabulous are not synonymous, and a major fashion faux-pas at the Oscars is always a risk. Remember the swan gown worn by pop star Bjork in 2001?
Yet even the most outrageous dresses can win the favor of some fashion watchers. Television style expert Steve "Cojo" Cojocaru believes an outfit gone wrong is fun to watch.
"I like mistakes. I don't want everyone to look great," he told reporters at a recent fashion event.
His advice to red carpet walkers? "Less is more. Do not come wearing a tiara."
Meanwhile, fashion and other product makers have opened their annual gifting suites throughout Beverly Hills looking to give the stars something to wear in exchange for publicity. And even stars need a few practical items, preferably without having to pay for them like ordinary folk.
L'Oreal Paris lipstick, for instance, comes in "red carpet red," and Spanx has underwear for those who want to conceal a few extra pounds.
"These aren't superhumans. They're real women like you and me," said Misty Elliott of Spanx, whose "Bra-llelujah" made of pantyhose fabric is said to be a favorite of Jessica Alba.
"They do have cellulite," Elliott added. "When you're walking the red carpet, you don't want to jiggle."
Dangling diamonds, of course, are a girl's best friend, even if they're not the real thing. Fortunately, said Carol Wexler of Borrowed Bling.com which rents faux diamonds, it's virtually impossible to tell the difference.
"It's don't ask, don't tell," Wexler said.
If the strain of having to be fabulous gets too much, the stars can always consult a celebrity psychic.
"Mojan," who was offering readings at a recent pre-Oscar fashion event, explained how stars need to chase out negative vibes before a stressful ceremony like the Academy Awards.
"What I'm able to do is clear out their energy -- I'm a healer as well," Mojan said. "They're all going to be nervous."