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''American Idol'' gets a fashion upgrade

”American Idol” gets a fashion upgrade — This season’s contestants are more image-conscious than previous years

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Of all the American Idol changes this season — raising the age limit, eliminating guest judges, dividing the semifinal performances by gender — our favorite has been the sartorial shift from mall-rat cheesy to hipster-rocking. Sure, Idol‘s produced miraculous makeovers in the past (see Clay Aiken), but most of the latest contenders arrived with style savvy intact. ”All of them are really interested in their image,” says Idol stylist Miles Siggins. ”They’re a little older and came to the show knowing who they are.”

In this season’s battle of the sexes, the girls are hitting the highest fashion notes. Occasional big hair aside, Carrie Underwood — who, at 21, is one of the youngest — sparkles in bright scarves and faded jeans (”She’s the one we’re still educating,” Siggins says), while Vonzell Solomon scaled the heights of diva fashion on March 15 in an orange Caché gown. As for the guys, the dueling rockers rule: Bo Bice in retro velour and Constantine Maroulis in combos of blazers and Henry Duarte jeans (though we could live without the pink scarf). ”Bo is more traditional, kind of Lynyrd Skynyrd,” Siggins says. ”Constantine is slicker.”

The biggest difference this season? ”[The contestants] have been more willing to pay for it themselves,” says Siggins, adding that the $450-per-contestant weekly clothing budget is the same as in past seasons. If only someone would spring for Simon to kick his boring black-tee habit.