Thanks to a refreshing emphasis on personal style, the Academy Awards were an entertaining evening of fashion, not the overdressed high school prom they've sometimes resembled. On the one night a year when glamour traditionally rules, most of the women of Hollywood showed up dressed as Tasteful Ladies, while maintaining their individuality.
And then there was Cher, awakening memories of the style blood bath the Oscar shows used to be, before high-fashion designers joined the fray.
It takes confidence to interpret glamour as elegant simplicity. A number of high-profile actresses did just that, including best actress winner Helen Hunt, in an ice-blue, strapless satin column with matching stole by Tom Ford for Gucci; Julianne Moore, wearing a high-necked stone satin gown by Miuccia Prada; Mira Sorvino in a black asymmetric sheath by Giorgio Armani; Celine Dion poured into a long-sleeved slink of navy stretch matte jersey by Michael Kors for Celine; and Minnie Driver in a glitz-free red chiffon dress by Randolph Duke for Halston. With a sparkling periwinkle corset-topped gown by Pamela Dennis, Linda Hamilton (Mrs. James Cameron), the most photographed wife of the night, didn't pile on the accessories.
Sometimes, an actress aims to counter her screen image by dressing against type. Meg Ryan, America's sweetheart, let no sugar dust her dazzlingly plain, black, long-sleeved Vera Wang.
In the chill of the Shrine Auditorium, Driver snuggled into her dyed fox stole, and Maria Shriver, in lavender silk chiffon by Valentino, Helen Hunt and Helena Bonham Carter all made use of matching shawls, which, except for the usual complement of megabuck borrowed jewels, were the evening's most conspicuous accessory. Trisha Yearwood even held her wrap on while she sang.
If anyone had the right to claim a romantic, "Titanic"-inspired look, it was Kate Winslet. As overwrought as her deep green Givenchy gown was, she carried off its high drama. In contrast, Neve Campbell's fussy gray lace gown by Gianfranco Ferre seemed too old for such a young beauty. Cameron Diaz's sheer, feminine Chloe top and satin skirt was a prettier, more interesting choice.
For a while, it appeared the zaftig Marilyn Monroe look had returned, with snug gowns hugging the pronounced curves of Elisabeth Shue, Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Lopez.
The past few years, a number of actresses over 50 have hidden in tailored jackets. (Not you, Goldie.) Susan Sarandon in black tulle by Dolce & Gabbana, Faye Dunaway in a bare taupe jersey dress by Armani and Julie Christie in a steel-gray beaded jersey gown by Richard Tyler said phooey on all that mature modesty.
In their black shirts, white shirts, high collars, no collars, bow ties or no ties, the men looked good too. But that's another story.