It doesn't take a crystal ball to figure out what the styles will be for awards season 2011-12. The recently wrapped New York spring 2012 fashion shows are the best indicator because actresses will wear spring looks before they hit the fashion mags.
"Now that I've seen these gowns with puffed bottoms -- like curtains drawn -- at Oscar de la Renta and Zac Posen, tight looks old," celebrity stylist George Kotsiopoulos tells THR. "With all these uneven hems, you can bet there will be a bigger interest in a fabulous heel to wear with them." Stylist Anna Bingemann, who works with Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weisz, sums it up with her trends assessment: "Sleeves, tiny waists and fuller skirts, combined with bold patterns and colors." Rather than the shoulder and bust detail of years past, the focus this season is from knees to hem.
Where and how did these looks manifest? At Zac Posen, it was about long-sleeve gowns (we're talking about you, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close), evening separates of tight, nipped-waist jackets with tulip skirts and old Hollywood looks with a twist -- like the mermaid silhouette done to the max. "Exaggerated mermaid gowns are for girls who want to make a splash," notes Kotsiopoulos (we're thinking Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Emma Stone).
Oscar de la Renta went for giant pouf skirts in colors like vivid green and lipstick red, with hemlines that ruffle and are pulled and inflated like Gone With the Wind curtains. The tops are lace corsetry or have metallic open-weave sweaters tossed over them. "It's fresh, young and unexpected," says Kotsiopoulos. Adds stylist Leith Clark, who dresses Knightley, "I'm loving all the lace detail." Lace also popped up at Prabal Gurung and Jason Wu.
Color will be even bigger because two-tone and print gowns are hot, hotter, hottest. We noticed purple, red and green in all their glory (and orange was hovering), but yellow is making a huge comeback. Carolina Herrera burst out like a sunflower with tons of yellow and leaf-green gowns, and Vera Wang, who always does subtle neutrals, did yellow as well. So did Monique Lhuillier, Derek Lam and Christian Cota. Rodarte did screaming brights, mostly yellows, in loud floral prints -- "absolutely fearless," says Clark. Young actresses like Mia Wasikowska love them, and Rooney Mara was in Rodarte's front row.
Semi-sheer is all the rage for spring; it will be interesting to see how that plays out with lighting and camera flashes on red carpets. Stylists will have to find a way to avoid naked bits. Vera Wang played with sheers in all white with texture; so did Narciso Rodriguez. J. Mendel vertically pieced semi-sheers in varying colors, and Marc Jacobs added transparent panels to Great Gatsby-style drop-waist dresses. There are so many sheer insets, underwear choices could get complicated.
Marchesa went its own way with an evening-wear show filled with metallic fringe, pale semi-sheers with wispy overlays and white gowns with feathers. "It was major glam," says Jen Rade, who dresses Angelina Jolie. "They did metallics in all shades; they really catch light." The detail on these dresses is so elaborate it rivals Paris' costly couture creations. No doubt Rachel Zoe, who was at the show, will snap them up for clients like Anne Hathaway.
One thing for sure: Come the Globes, SAG Awards and Oscars, anything simple, too tight, one shoulder or black will look last year -- no, make that last decade.
Pictured below: Eye-catching citrus shades were part of the rainbow that appeared on the runway at Jason Wu (left); actresses such as Frieda Pinto (in Juan Carlos Obando) have already embraced the trend.