Ditch the frills and the bling and let the Austerity Oscars roll! (Mine’s a Moët...)

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The Independent Culture

They will have spent this morning practising their “I’m so-glad! He/she-really-deserved-it-so-much-more-than-me” faces. And tonight, the elite of Hollywood will attempt to balance post-credit crunch chic with ostentatious glamour for the 81st Oscar ceremony.

Although the Moet, caviar and lobster will abound at some after-Oscar parties, much of the traditional conspicuous consumption will be toned down this year in a self-conscious nod to the dire economic climate.

That may, however, prove a blessing for some stars, whose past attempts to trump each other with diamonds and plunging necklines have seen them ridiculed around the globe.

Flamboyant dresses will be replaced by sleek designs (albeit with price tags upwards of $10,000) in understated colours. Costume jewellery will be preferred to diamond necklaces. In a move that signals the end of the “bling” era, the accessories designer Stuart Weitzman has decided, for the first time since 2001, not to loan out his signature $1m diamond-encrusted shoes to one of the Oscar-nominated actresses. “We are deep in a downturn, and though people want celebrities to lift their moods, people who go over the top will just look out of touch,” said Dawn Miller, who works in Hollywood PR. “You’re going to see muted colours and styles, and fewer bows and frills. Classic is my watchword. There will be very few high-end pieces of jewellery.”

The show will be toned down in other ways, too. Many present will be aware of the damage done to their careers in the past by over-excitement, gushing speeches, political grandstanding and ego-mania.

According to Archie Thomas of Variety, the Hollywood newspaper, this “curse of the Oscars” is known as F Murray Abraham Syndrome, after the stage actor who picked up the Best Actor award in 1984 for his performance as Salieri in Amadeus, only to disappear off the Hollywood radar.

“I think the curse is largely tied up to expectations,” Mr Thomas said. “Once a Hollywood actor has bagged Oscar gold, expectations from the industry and the cinema-going public go through the roof. Egos swelled by Academy recognition, combined with bad, or plain greedy, management, mean dodgy choices are all too frequent.”

In some quarters, tonight’s 81st Academy Awards have been dubbed the “austerity” Oscars. These things are relative, of course: you can’t hire a stretch limo in LA tonight for love or money (even if some stars have switched to hybrid SUVs).

Variety led last week with news that ailing film studios have toned down expensive parties. “The theme for private Oscar bashes is shaping up to be: throw a party, have fun, but don’t do too much,” it read. Tonight’s most glamorous bash, hosted by Vanity Fair, has been moved to a smaller venue and its guest-list shortened.

Decorations from previous years will be recycled. Unconfirmed reports suggest, unthinkably, that foie gras and fussy canapés may be replaced by chicken pot pie.

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