published Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Celebrities warm up the crowd for New York Fashion Week

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL

AP Fashion Writer

NEW YORK — A catwalk of celebrities kicked off New York Fashion Week on Wednesday night, getting the audience all pumped up for the Red Dress runway show, which draws attention to a national awareness campaign about women and heart disease.

Denise Richards did the ’70s look in a halter-top, empire-waist dress by Matthew Williamson, while ’70s pinup Suzanne Somers went for a flared minidress with a jeweled waist by Ina Soltani.

Matthew McConaughey cheered on girlfriend Camila Alves in her sexy, tiny-strap asymmetrical gown by KaufmanFranco, snapping photos the whole show through, and Susan Sarandon let her daughter, Eva Amurri, soak up the spotlight in her high-neck lace dress by Chris Benz. Sarandon, dressed in an unassuming pink polo shirt and hair pulled back, quietly took her front-row seat just a few minutes before the show began.

No one strutted quite like actress Taraji P. Henson, in a Naeem Khan-designed beaded dress with a high slit, who milked her moment with the crowd, singing Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” OK, maybe Dita von Teese, wearing a Zac Posen number that emphasized her hourglass shape, one-upped her in the hip-swinging department.

Pop singer Natasha Bedingfield performed at the end of her turn, but one could have forgotten her day job as she wore a deep V halter dress by Nicole Miller.

Patti LaBelle hammed it up in her kimono-style dress by Zang Toi, and Linda Gray wore a Pamella Roland off-the-shoulder gown. Katrina Bowden went short in a flounce-front Oscar de la Renta.

Julianne Hough’s red Swarovski dress played into the heart-health theme with its sweetheart neckline and her necklace with crystals shaped into hearts.

By fashion standards, Alberta Ferretti’s eyelash pleat dress on TV personality Cat Deeley and Monique Lhuillier’s rose-covered ballgown, modeled by Garcelle Beauvais, were standouts.

The Red Dress show has become an annual event in February at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, which officially kicks off Thursday for eight days of previews for the fall season. Some designers are further supporting the national heart disease campaign, sponsored by The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, by auctioning dresses through the Clothes Off Our Back website.

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