PARIS -- No awards ceremony ever goes on without a hitch, but the Fashion Oscars presented at the Opera here last week may have had the most stylish hitch in history.

Madame Alix Gre`s, the grande dame of the French fashion world, led the 30 or so designers onto the stage at the beginning of the televised fashion awards program and then began making her way back to her seat. To reach it, she had to squeeze past several cabinet ministers and their wives, Pierre Berge' -- the partner of Yves Saint Laurent -- and then Danielle Mitterrand, wife of the president of France, who was wearing a dress embellished in front with a large embroidered bow by Saint Laurent. As Madame Gre`s inched past Madame Mitterrand, the sequins on her dress became entangled with the embroidery on Madame Mitterrand's. They couldn't budge without ruining both dresses.

It was Berge' who came to their rescue, and with much deft twisting and turning he was able to unhitch the two ladies.

This was the second presentation of these awards, and it was done with great splash and flash. A military honor guard in Napoleonic dress lined the grand staircase of the Opera as the superbly coiffed and coutured crowd made grand entrances. The audience was made up almost entirely of the international fashion crowd, true believers in their own fashion dictates. Dresses were fluffed and pouffed with petticoats of brightly colored silks and satins. A few men wore variations on the tuxedo, but, in principle, the male contingent did not depart radically from a black-tie gathering in Washington.

The first clue that all was not without wrinkles in the awards business was a terse communique' from the House of Chanel, saying it was pulling out of the Oscars competition. Chanel was unhappy with the way the television advertising time had been allotted -- specifically with the fact that YSL and Berge' had captured the largest segment (2 minutes, 40 seconds), while other houses were allotted only 30 seconds each. And though Chanel representatives never complained publicly, their sensitive noses were also out of joint because Berge' had suggested that in the best model category, Chanel's signature model, Inez de la Fressange, should not be considered a candidate since she works only for one house and not for all the designers.

Jacques Mouclier, commissioner general of the fashion awards and head of the federation that organizes the semiannual fashion shows in Paris, lost no time in preparing a blistering response to Chanel. Competition between the houses was free and equal, he said, and "one cannot truly reproach one business {YSL} for responding so quickly and generously" to this offer of advertising time.

More than 50 editors were declared eligible to vote for best collection and best model, and were notified that they must cast their ballots after the Yves Saint Laurent showing (and just before that of American designer Patrick Kelly). Mouclier announced the rules to the assembled editor-judges. Then came the questions. Should Christian Lacroix be considered a ready-to-wear designer and eligible for an award since he had such a small first collection this season? The French editors were adamant. "Look! Look!," said one, shaking the easily identifiable beige-y brown program from the Lacroix show. "He doesn't even call himself 'ready-to-wear,' but rather luxe," she added almost angrily.

"The French mafia editors think Lacroix is the fabrication of the American press," snapped one editor, referring to the high marks Lacroix has gotten from Americans, particularly in the influential trade journal Women's Wear Daily. Not so, said Alice Morgaine of the French publication Jardin des Modes. "We only wanted to respect what Lacroix thinks himself. And he doesn't consider himself ready-to-wear."

There followed a show of hands on the Lacroix question, the French contingent voting one way, the smaller American crowd the opposite, and Lacroix was summarily disqualified. Ballots were then passed out, and the editors were asked to give their top five choices for best designer and best model. Someone passed a black wastebasket to collect the votes.

At the glittery awards ceremony at the Opera later that night, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, in a slim, droopy black dress she said she made herself, helped announce the winners with Yves Mourousi. Marpessa Hanning, a 27-year-old Dutch native, was named best model for the ready-to-wear showings, Dominique Isserman best fashion photographer, Marie Claire the best fashion magazine and Serge Milioni (who could barely be seen behind his model's pouffed-out dress) the best student designer.

Brief video clips from the shows of the top five finalists in the designer category -- Issey Miyake, Claude Montana, Emanuel Ungaro, Rei Kawakubo and Jean Paul Gaultier -- were shown. But before the winner was announced, Mourousi gracelessly told the crowd that Lacroix was ineligible to compete in the category of best designer of ready-to-wear and that, therefore, the award would be given to Jean-Paul Gaultier, the avant-garde designer admired for his spoof of clothing.

"If it were me getting the award I would have broken the crystal statue over the head of Mourousi," said Ungaro later.

But it didn't seem to bother Gaultier, who, standing near a woman wearing a creation of his that featured windmills spinning on spokes projecting from the bra, praised designers Andre' Courre`ges, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent as role models, and thanked everyone in his family, staff and friends in a rapid-fire patter.

Outside the Opera, onlookers who had gathered in the rain to see the crowd arrive were waiting to watch them leave. "What's going on?" someone asked New York paparazzo Bill Cunningham, who was waiting to photograph the fashion crowd. "Just a bunch of dressmakers having a convention," he said.