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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 09:31 GMT
Finding the perfect Oscar frock
By Caroline Briggs
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Caroline Briggs tries on an Oscar dress for size

Finding the perfect dress to wear on the red carpet at the Oscars is not a task to be taken lightly.

Winning a coveted statuette is not the only chance a best actress nominee has to shine on the biggest and most glamorous night on the film industry's calendar.

They know that many battles are won and lost on the red carpet.

Oscar night fashion is not just about looking stylish - it's about looking beautiful, radiant and classy, and the right look can help lift a B-list starlet into the upper echelons of celebrity.

And it's not just about the dress. It's the right hairstyle, perfect skin and make-up. Battle? It's a minefield.

"There is so much pressure to look good," says Ciona Johnson, an A-list make-up artist who counts Renee Zellweger, Keira Knightley, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cameron Diaz among her celebrity clients.

Everyone wants to see themselves in the best-dressed section of magazines, not the worst
Alex Fullerton, stylist

"The whole process can start a few weeks before a big awards ceremony when they start getting their facials, or beauty treatments, as well as their manicures and pedicures.

"The final look is a creation by a lot of very talented people who collaborate to make that perfect red-carpet picture."

A team of people go in to making the celebrity look her best on Oscar night.

There's the personal trainer, beauty therapist, designer, stylist, hairdresser and make-up artist. For those who want it, there is also the cosmetic surgeon to consider.

The dress itself will be discussed with the stylist weeks in advance and made to fit the star perfectly.

"It's very important for actresses to get it right," says fashion stylist and writer Alex Fullerton. "Stars will be working with their stylists a couple of months in advance to make sure they look immaculate.

Best actress nominee Penelope Cruz wore Versace last year

"Many celebrities like to wear metallic dresses because it really makes them shine.

"But prints are something they tend to keep clear of because everyone wants to see themselves in the best-dressed section of magazines, not the worst."

Alex's personal favourite Oscar frock was Penelope Cruz' strapless Versace dress that the Volver star wore in 2007.

The blush coloured creation with a intricately ruched tight bodice and exaggerated feathered skirt was a "seminal" moment in Oscar style, she says.

Cate Blanchett was another darling of last year's Oscars. Her one-shoulder steel-coloured Swarovski crystal mesh gown, by Giorgio Armani Prive, was a fashion-pack favourite.

Nominated for two Oscars - best actress and best supporting actress awards - Blanchett is unlikely to ditch her style because of her advancing pregnancy.

Like many Hollywood leading ladies, Blanchett is likely to stay loyal to her designers of choice. Think Renee Zellweger in Caroline Herrera, or Gwyneth Paltrow in Ralph Lauren.

Cate Blanchett wore a metallic dress to the Oscars in 2007.

"Cate Blanchett has always been a big fan of Armani Prive, and has also worn Valentino," says Alex.

"She always picks dresses that look quite tough, like an armour, but whatever she chooses she always looks very elegant and majestic, and designers love her to wear their designs."

So key trends to spot at this year's Oscars are Grecian; strapless; or one shoulder.

Think metallic fabrics, or "boiled sweet colours" with serious jewellery, and you can't go wrong. Or can you...

Ciona warns it's not simply a case of picking up dress at the last minute and hoping for the best.

"I will see the outfit they have chosen a few hours before a ceremony and talk to them about what look they want to achieve.

"A make-up that emphasises their best features without dominating is what you want. You want people to think 'wow - they look stunning!

"The whole idea is for them to look healthy, radiant and relaxed - like they turn up on the red carpet wearing diamonds every single day.

"It is a fantasy image we are creating, but once the work is done it is up to the star to pose on the red carpets and pull it off for the cameras."

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