It was a year of independence for fashion, too: a little lace, a lot of shine, and an infusion of flower power

During this season of the overused catchphrase, fashion followed suit. On Oscar night, almost every great dress sported not only a train but a tag line. Two Absolutely Fabulous words summed up the chocolate brown confection worn by Kristin Scott Thomas: ”Lacroix, sweetie.” Madonna got her midnight-lace-with-train number from Dior’s John Galliano, thereby staying faithful to the Evita lyric: ”So Christian Dior me, from my head to my toes.” And Juliette Binoche, in her high-collared Sophie Sitbon gown, seemed ready to inquire: ”Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest at the Governors Ball?”

But while the most glamorous actresses got Frenchified, Billy Bob Thornton was Kentucky fried. The down-home Sling Blade winner had the tails on his Hugo Boss tux hacked off, then added what he called ”a string tie like Gary Cooper wore in High Noon.”

Such style divides epitomized the evening. Fashion traveled from the plains of Fargo (Frances McDormand’s simple frock) to the heights of Hollywood insanity (Dennis Rodman’s mad hat). This year’s anything-goes variety replaced last year’s elegant uniformity. ”The clothes were individual,” says stylist Phillip Bloch, who dressed Sandra Bullock. ”Last year everybody wore a satin dress to be safe.” And fantastically priced necklaces, like the $6.5 million loaner that circled Angela Bassett’s neck in 1996, were no-shows. ”I didn’t bring out the heavy artillery,” says jeweler Martin Katz, who provided subdued styles to Courtney Love and Bassett. They wisely decided not to show off the money.