This year's Oscar outfits were really "haute stuff." At what has become known as the world's biggest fashion show, celebrities didn't disappoint on the red carpet runway, but instead paraded along in dazzling dresses that recalled Hollywood glamour of past decades the '20s, '30s and '40s and, occasionally, impeccably represented modern sophistication.
The evening's big winners also took home top honors as the most stylish stars. Best actress Julia Roberts truly was a pretty woman in vintage Valentino. Although the $20 million thespian was courted by every American designer imaginable, she chose a graphic black-and-white gown by the Italian institution, and paired it with her most stunning accessory her megawatt smile.
Looking like a latter-day Rita Hayworth, best supporting actress Marcia Gay Harden sizzled in her drop-dead-gorgeous red strapless Randolph Duke, matching stole, and diamond bib necklace from Harry Winston. "I feel very glamorous tonight," said the Pollock performer as she twirled around, Oscar in hand, upon arriving at Vanity Fair's standing-room-only shindig.
Many actresses chose color to set themselves apart from the pack, and those who did it well looked like glittering jewels. Statuesque Sigourney Weaver beautifully carried off her Dior gown, which laced up the side. Best actress nominee Joan Allen positively glowed in a sleek tangerine Michael Kors column adorned with coral beads. "I love how good I feel in this dress," she said. Halle Berry (who arrived solo because new husband Eric Benet was at home working on his next album), always ranks among the best-dressed at any award show, and she didn't disappoint this time, either. Her lavender Badgley Mischka was one of the most feminine looks of the night. "I just love dressing up and being a real girl," she explained. Renee Zellweger may not have been a contender for any Oscars, but she proved that she still was a formidable combatant in the wardrobe war. The Nurse Betty leading lady, who recently shed the 20 pounds that she had gained for her next film, Bridget Jones's Diary, looked slim, cool and confident in a sunny yellow strapless sheath by Jean Desses. She chose the vintage garb, she revealed, because "I smiled when I saw it."
Better known for showing skin than restraint, Jennifer Lopez opted for chic value instead of shock value mostly by donning an elegant Chanel dress... that was just sheer enough to set tongues wagging. The Wedding Planner diva takes her attire seriously, and was rumored to have considered more than 200 frocks before making her final selection.
Wild card Angelina Jolie left last year's frightful Morticia Addams look in her haunted closet, but still managed to surprise fashionistas by looking simply stunning in a classic Dolce & Gabbana pantsuit worn with gasp! no jewelry.
Black looked anything but basic on Catherine Zeta-Jones, who poured her considerable curves into a corseted Versace number. Mrs. Michael Douglas unleashed her considerable charisma as a presenter, in so doing proving that she is Hollywood's most scintillating sex symbol.
The guys looked great, too. Steve Martin (who will hopefully host the Oscars for many years to come) joked about getting a free tuxedo if he could mention the designer on the air. Giorgio Armani made the dapper emcee look sartorially splendid. Oscar victors Russell Crowe and Benicio Del Toro also looked so smashing in Armani that maybe all nominees should consider the fashion-plate maker a good luck charm. Tom Cruise has thankfully given up trying to be a hipster: The long, greasy hair of the wannabe rock star is gone, and the clean-cut albeit very dapper matinee idol has returned.
Ubiquitous fashion policewoman Joan Rivers (who almost didn't have anything to wear because her luggage was temporarily lost) summed up the mind-set of the clotheshorses thusly: "These people have finally figured out that they're big stars, and dressing the part goes with the territory. They're all winners well, at least most of them are."
While most stars dressed to impress, there were those whose looks missed by a mile. Kate Hudson, who has worn Vera Wang and Donna Karan so well to other award shows this season, chose a fussy Chloe gown that added surely unwanted years to her youthful appearance. Juliette Binoche, arguably one of the loveliest women in the biz, desperately needs a stylist. Her attempt to be a flapper in a Jean Paul Gaultier getup, hat and pearls looked like a costume, not like couture. And finally, alternative-pop singer Björk, gussied up as a swan, proved that not every celebrity worries about the fashion critics... though maybe in this case she should have.