For Post-Split Stars, Looking Good Is the Best Revenge

You're one of the top female celebrities, you recently went through a difficult breakup and now you've got to walk the red carpet at the Golden Globes.

How do you survive that gauntlet of cameras and pesky entertainment reporters?

Just look fabulous -- that's what Reese Witherspoon did.

The actress arrived with a dramatic new look, showing off bangs, a long, straightened cut to her hair and a yellow, cocktail-length dress. Witherspoon won so many plaudits that almost no one asked her about her divorce from husband Ryan Philippe last October.

Other fashion-forward women on the rebound were Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore.

"The classic expression is that the best revenge is looking well," says R.J. Garis, an entertainment publicist. "Well, in show business it's 'the best revenge is looking great.' You might feel miserable inside -- 'I'm devastated and I don't feel like getting out in front of the paparazzi' -- but you have to maintain that sexy image."

And that image depends on haute couture and expensive hairdressers. "You expect someone who's been through a breakup to look like a complete mess," says Us Weekly fashion director Sasha Charnin Morrison. "And it was absolutely the reverse. They looked absolutely beautiful. Cameron, Reese and Drew all had different looks, but each one was creative and different."

Just before the new year, 34-year-old Diaz broke up with younger boyfriend Justin Timberlake, who reportedly started dating actress Scarlett Johanssen after she was cast in the video for his new song, "What Goes Around."

Diaz wore a belted tulle gown held up with a single shoulder strap. The dramatic outfit provoked extreme reactions as fashion observers either loved it or hated it -- but it helped distract reporters from annoying questions about Timberlake.

And Barrymore, whose braless outfit at last year's awards was widely panned, got the opposite reaction this time around. In a blush-colored dress designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior, the actress looked stunning, and almost no one asked her about last week's split with her beau of five years, rocker Fabrizio Moretti.

Hilary Swank and Sienna Miller were other actresses who've been through difficult breakups but won praise for their outfits at the awards.

The stars' fashion makeovers were no coincidence -- they were part of a calculated strategy to enhance their public image, say relationship experts and celebrity publicists.

"When you come onstage like Cameron or Reese and you look magnificent, you look like the star you've always been," says Garis. "If you look bedraggled, like this relationship has been brutal, then everyone talks about that."

After a breakup, women take much longer than men to get involved in a relationship again, according to surveys. And most women don't like strangers seeing them in a vulnerable position, preferring the company of an intimate circle of friends, says John Gray, the author of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus."

"But in the world of celebrity, everything is about perceived image," says Gray. "On the red carpet, everyone is asking them, 'Are you hurt by this? Are you devastated?' So you want to put up an image that everything's OK, that you're moving on with your life and that you're stronger than ever."

Gray argues that women use makeup to disguise not only their physical blemishes but their vulnerabilities as well. "When you have cameras and strangers looking at you, women wear the makeup to cover what's really going on," says Gray. "Women are under greater pressure to look different, to change how they appear, to distract you from what's really going on."

Reese, Cameron and Drew's new looks certainly distracted plenty of people on Monday night. "It does kind of silence everybody -- instead of inquiring about the breakup, everyone focuses on the clothes," says Morrison. "Sometimes all it takes is chiffon."