Few risk-takers on red carpet


78th Annual Academy Awards


It was a night to recognize cowboys, eccentric literary geniuses and powerful 1950s senators. But the style honors went to a handful of lovely ladies who managed to pull off a nearly flawless red carpet during last night's Academy Awards.

There was very little to complain about as veterans such as Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, as well as newbies such as Keira Knightley and Jessica Alba, strolled past a parade of cameras and microphones in one elegant look after another.

It was almost disappointing, all that perfection.

No one style dominated Hollywood's most star-studded catwalk, but in an era of ubiquitous celebrity stylists, a trend emerged: Very few risks. Very few mistakes. Very little to dish about today at the water cooler.

"This was a year of `best dressed' and then `OK,'" says Katrina Szish, style editor for Us Weekly magazine. "There weren't any bombs, but there was a lot of ho-hums."

Still, there were stand-outs. And here are our picks:

BEST-DRESSED ACTRESS --Hands down, this award goes to Fantastic Four star Alba, whose sheer perfection was awe-inspiring. In a golden Versace gown with glittery embroidery, Alba nearly stole the show.

"She really ran away with it," says Constance White, style director for eBay.com. "The others were just runners-up and the rest weren't even in the race."

Our runners-up: Keira Knightley, in an eggplant-colored, one-shoulder Vera Wang and vintage jewelry; Michelle Williams, in a ruffled, lemon-yellow Vera Wang dress.

BEST-DRESSED ACTOR --Terrence Howard. Never known for his stellar fashion choices, this rising star showed the nation last night that he sure cleans up good. Howard took the classic tux and made it his own, with a straight tie instead of a bow and a surprising brooch pinned to his lapel.

"He was looking very fashion forward without being silly," says Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar.

LEAST BEST DRESSED (Since there's no "worst") --This is a toss- up between two celebs who usually make the grade, style-wise: Naomi Watts and Felicity Huffman. Huffman, in a severe, black Zac Posen dress, with a plunging neckline, looked as if she was trying too hard to remind viewers that she is, in fact, a woman despite her gender-shifting Transamerica character. And Watts' nude, tulle Givenchy gown looked hurriedly deconstructed and did nothing to flatter her enviable figure.

"That dress was dreadful," says New York designer George Simonton, a professor of fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. "And the strings hanging? Ick."

TRENDIEST COLOR --Nudes, whites and non-colors -- all hot this coming spring -- showed up in a big way on the red carpet last night. Uma Thurman, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, Kidman, Watts and others all wore soft, muted tones. The quiet elegance was offset by a number of bolder hues worn by edgier actresses, such as Salma Hayek and Williams.

BEST SURPRISING DETAIL --With her hands hidden in clever pockets, Bullock evoked Katharine Hepburn's easy, modern grace in a midnight blue gown by Angel Sanchez.

MOST DISAPPOINTING --Jennifer Aniston. After a painful year, Oscar night could have been Aniston's moment to show the world -- through fashion -- her strength, beauty and resilience. Instead, the queen of minimalism went for a long simple gown in black (no surprises there). It was pretty, but safe and boring. Everything her nemesis is not.


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