LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The lack of Hollywood awards shows this year due to the screenwriters' strike leaves not only spotlight-craving stars in the lurch but means a lot of designer gowns hanging unworn and unloved in closets.
The good news for fashionistas is that the red-carpet glamour parade outside the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday will bring stars such as Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett back into the spotlight.
After the Golden Globe Awards were scaled down to a news conference -- and with the fate of the Oscars still unknown -- the SAG awards may be this year's only chance for Hollywood to reign over the fashion world.
"This town is eager to show up. This town is eager to dress up, and they're going to," said Hal Rubenstein, fashion director for InStyle magazine. "It's got to matter more because there's been nothing to look at."
The strike by Hollywood writers, now in its 12th week, has crippled the local economy, halting TV production, delaying movies and putting people out of work. While other awards shows were canceled, SAG received a waiver from the striking Writers Guild of America.
Designers like Los Angeles-based Kevan Hall, whose gowns appear regularly on stars such as Felicity Huffman, Katherine Heigl and Vanessa Williams, have felt the impact of the strike.
Hall said he chose not to design any one-of-a-kind couture gowns exclusively for one actress. Instead, any gown of his will come from his existing collection.
"From the very beginning, no one was clear as to what would happen. It made it difficult as to whether we wanted to commit to making and creating these gowns that would not be worn."
How the writers' strike influences what stars will wear remains a question. Will celebrities take full advantage of their first red-carpet appearance this season, flaunting bold colors and even prints, as Rubenstein predicted, or opt for more restraint out of respect for out-of-work writers?
Hall and Cameron Silver, owner of the Los Angeles vintage couture boutique Decades, said the mood in town felt melancholy and that more toned-down fashions may be prevalent.
"Hollywood gets to export fantasy but usually Hollywood isn't in distress," Silver said. "Appropriate glamour will always look great -- this is probably not the moment for 'costume couture."'
Another concern is the appearance of flaunting wealth when a possible recession looms over the U.S. economy. Silver, whose vintage gowns are snatched up by A-list actresses, said the financial malaise might be an advantage.
"There's something chic about wearing something not straight off the runways," he said. "It's still glamorous, but not as ostentatious."
Fashion must be served, and tabloids, television and newspapers rely on the red-carpet parade as fodder for their style reports. Moreover, what stars wear has an impact on what clothes shoppers will buy off clothing racks.
The fashion industry needs Hollywood, and Hollywood finally gets a chance to respond on Sunday.
"I think whatever is seen on the carpet will influence fashion to a degree," Hall said. "Whether it be quiet ... or a flourish, it's all about driving American business, and at this point we need this to happen."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Peter Cooney