In the fight for fashion headlines, the designer battle to dress the stars on the night of the Oscars has become almost as crucial as the catwalk shows. Here, Jennifer Tilly, the star of Bullets Over Broadway and Bound, gets her vote in early for Giorgio Armani. Photographs by Michel Comte
Jennifer Tilly has had to work harder than her younger sister Meg to achieve Hollywood stardom. Her big break came last year when Woody Allen cast her as Olive, the whining gangster moll in Bullets Over Broadway. She was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the role. Later this year, the curvaceous 38-year-old actress appears opposite Jim Carrey in Liar Liar, and she can currently be seen starring in a surprise box-office hit, the lesbian love story Bound.

But the crowning moment of her career so far must be her high-voltage appearance in a short film made by fashion photographer David Lachapelle for Giorgio Armani. (An exhibition of Lachapelle's work opened in Milan this week.) The light-hearted film, Salvation, which poked fun at rival designer Gianni Versace, was something of a breakthrough for Armani, too, revealing that the Italian king of beige has a sense of humour after all. Tilly plays a white trash magazine vendor in a Hollywood kiosk who, after a series of encounters with various camp and trashy fashion queens in Versace-style bondage outfits, is given a make-over by the fashion police in the form of the "Salvation Armani". The result? An elegant, navy sheath- dressed designer princess.

The rags-to-riches tale is not unlike that of her own life. By Hollywood standards, Tilly is a late developer. She was born in California but grew up with hippie parents in British Columbia. She has described her upbringing as "like some kind of warped version of the Brady Bunch". These days, she spends her time wading through film scripts in her Spanish-style bungalow in Bel Air.

Giorgio Armani shows his collection for autumn/winter 97/8 in Milan tomorrow. And the hype does not end after the show. In the next few weeks, running up to the Oscars ceremony on 24 March, Hollywood will become the battleground of the major-league designers. Prada, Valentino, Versace, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang will be slugging it out with Armani in the cut- throat fight to dress the stars and grab the world's newspaper headlines. Expected on Giorgio's list are Juliette Binoche, Glenn Close, Lauren Bacall, Woody Harrelson (in a hemp suit) and Mira Sorvino. Jennifer Tilly has already sworn her allegiance.