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Dress Like the Stars

By now, everyone knows that Hollywood actresses have replaced models as the prevailing influence on fashion in this country. These days, it’s the shimmering movie stars you see on the covers of the glossies that chronicle all things related to style. I’ve spent years on the red carpet covering the Oscars, the Emmys and everything in between and have seen how some of today’s most stylish women stand out from the increasingly glamorous pack. There’s no question that some women just have it—the indefinable quality that sets them apart from everyone else. Others have worked hard to refine their style by fine-tuning their look over time. However they got to this rarified place, these women are setting the trends. Here’s a behind-the-seams look at how they do it ... and how you can, too.

Kate Winslet

The award-show favorite would be the first one to admit that the high marks she’s gotten for her polished, pulled-together look during this past season was the last thing she would have expected. "I was the fat girl growing up, so I never imagined myself as someone anyone would want to emulate," Winslet confided to me on the red carpet not too long ago. The 33-year-old mother of two, who has certainly slimmed down from her days as Titanic’s heroine, keeps it casual during her downtime in sporty pieces from Topshop. When she needs to up the glam quotient, she does so in Badgley Mischka, Valentino and Stefano Pilati’s Yves Saint Laurent gowns. For Winslet, these appearances are a bit like playing dress-up with her daughter.

"I’m not a glamorous movie star like Cate Blanchett. I’m a woman with a real body. But whenever I do get to play the part, I think, ‘How lucky am I?’" says the self-deprecating star. True professional that she is, Winslet looks every inch the screen goddess whenever there’s a flashbulb nearby. You’ll catch her in sophisticated, classic designs in jewel tones and no-fail black, accented by understated jewelry.

Style secret worth stealing: Play up one great part of your look—a killer dress looks even better with just a bit of bling—to keep the focus on you, not the clothes.

Jennifer Aniston

Everybody’s favorite "Friend" turned 40 this year, and it’s clear that’s not the only milestone she’s reached. This New Yorker-turned-quintessential California girl really knows what looks good on her. Aniston rarely deviates from the chic, streamlined looks of her favorite labels, such as Calvin Klein and Narciso Rodriguez. You’ll never see her sporting a busy print or fussy floral. At the premiere of her newest film, He’s Just Not That Into You, Aniston outshone her costars (who were all wearing various ultra-feminine dresses) by donning a sleek Burberry pantsuit in her favorite color—black. The actress who once wondered, "Can they see past my hairstyle?" is still setting trends, but on her own terms. "I think everyone needs to appreciate their own style," she once told me. "There’s nothing out there that works for everyone. I just look for things that make me feel good."

Style secret worth stealing: Take a pass on anything too trendy. If it works on you, stick with it. And remember, regular runs on the beach make everything look better.

Gwyneth Paltrow

She’s come a long way from her pretty-in-pink Ralph Lauren gown that seemed more befitting a prom queen than an Oscar-winning actress. These days, anytime Paltrow shows up on the red carpet, she looks every part the yummy mummy with her mile-long, toned legs—which she’s been showing off with increasing frequency in super-short skirts. Paltrow even writes on her new Web site GOOP (www.goop.com) about "chopping off about three inches" from a favorite little black dress to personalize her look. "Remember to make it great for you," she writes. While she’s worn things from every hot designer (from Zac Posen to Balenciaga), Paltrow’s real passion at the moment seems to be shoes. She loves to strut her stuff in skyscraper heels from Roger Vivier, Brian Atwood and Christian Louboutin.

Style secret worth stealing: If you’ve got it, flaunt it—and remember almost everything looks better worn with heels. Save the ballet flats for the weekends.

Nicole Kidman

Largely credited with bringing high fashion to the red carpet when she showed up on Tom Cruise’s arm at the Oscars wearing a stunning chartreuse Dior, Kidman was born to wear couture. As the face of Chanel, she’s been fortunate enough to have Karl Lagerfeld create some dazzling dresses for her Oscar appearances. She’s also worn some stunners from L’Wren Scott and Balenciaga. Kidman’s height is a huge advantage, as is her porcelain complexion. But the real key to her ability to carry off every look she tries is that she looks as comfortable in elaborate eveningwear as she does in jeans and a blazer.

Style secret worth stealing: Make an entrance in a designer gown in a solid hue—especially if it comes from Paris—and you’ll be a sure showstopper.

Vanessa Williams

This former Miss America is a red-carpet favorite because she’s not afraid to experiment. A longtime fan of Carmen Marc Valvo, Kevan Hall and Vera Wang, the actress is often drawn to dramatic choices for her public appearances. The other reason I love her so much is because she’s always been candid about what it takes to look so glam. The Ugly Betty star has told me on several occasions that she is an unabashed fan of Botox to keep up her youthful appearance. She makes regular appointments (every three months) with her doctors in New York and Miami for the injections. Unlike her contemporaries who use it to look younger on screen ("I don’t do that because as an actor I want my face to be as expressive as possible"), Williams prefers to have it before a vacation so "I can look as serene as I feel." It’s hard not to love a woman who tells it like it is.

Style secret worth stealing: Glowing skin is your best accessory, so keep your dermatologist on speed dial.

Demi Moore

It’s the rare actress who can go from fashion infamy to becoming a style icon, but Moore is all about defying expectations. Back when she had just become Mrs. Bruce Willis, Moore actually went to the Academy Awards in an ensemble of her own design that featured bike shorts. Today, she is the epitome of modern elegance. Having modeled in ad campaigns for Donna Karan and Donatella Versace, Moore still favors the designers’ goddess-like gowns—and also loves Alberta Ferretti’s flowing frocks. The ageless actress always manages to strike just the right balance between youthful and appropriate in Lanvin, one of her favorite labels for day. Her recent appearance at the Golden Globes in a pale pink chiffon confection by Dior proved she still has more presence than most decades-younger Hollywood beauties. All that and hunky husband Ashton Kutcher, too. I’ll have what she’s having.

Style secret worth stealing: Looking amazing isn’t about age; it’s an attitude. A lust for life is always attractive.

Penelope Cruz

The Spanish actress has been employing a no-fail strategy for getting noticed on the red carpet for years—dress like a movie star even if you haven’t hit the big time yet. (Halle Berry did the same thing.) From her earliest days as a little-known starlet, Cruz has always played in the fashion big leagues whenever the spotlight was on her. It’s no accident that her smart choices from Chanel, Dior Haute Couture and Oscar de la Renta have landed her on many international best-dressed lists. Now that she’s broken through with her Oscar win for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, expect to see more of her flawless fashion sense—and plenty of younger actresses following her example.

Style secret worth stealing: Dress for the part you want, and watch things happen.

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