AT LAST year's somber Emmys, the red carpet looked more like an Irish wake than an award show, with a sea of black sheaths on parade. But this year -- with no looming strike to dampen spirits -- actresses dressed like brides on their second marriages, determined to eclipse their prior vows.
Thankfully, though a few trends emerged, none dominated completely. Save for bare clavicles. Perhaps it was the recent collapse of Lehman Brothers that had most attendees avoiding Elizabeth Taylor-worthy statement necklaces and opting for oversized earrings and bold cuff bracelets. Only nominee America Ferrera, wearing a 19th century diamond flower necklace from Fred Leighton, and Nicolette Sheridan adorned their throats.
Bold colors, rather than carats, proved to be the prevailing look-this-way ploy. And on this 76 degree Sunday afternoon, refreshing sorbet was the inspiration. Brooke Shields dazzled in a ruffled raspberry Badgley Mischka gown, while Tina Fey in David Meister and Holly Hunter in Jenny Packham chose variations on grape. Julia Louis-Dreyfus' melon Narciso Rodriguez, with its beaded bandage bodice, was a sexy and daring choice that paid off. Her uninspired updo, however, felt frumpy by comparison.
Yellow, which can backfire severely, worked wonders on a bronzed Mariska Hargitay in Carolina Herrera, Becki Newton and raven-haired Teri Hatcher. Christina Applegate, nominated for her role on "Samantha Who?," wafted like incense in a Reem Acra silk organza, jacquard draped gown in soft blue. "Ugly Betty" nominee Ferrera's poufy black confection felt like it fell out of an auntie's closet and didn't complement her vixen-red lips and Veronica Lake waves. A column gown or mermaid cut would have been a much better and younger bet for the only nominee under 30.
It was refreshing to see a few bare knees too. Eva Longoria Parker and Kyra Sedgwick looked sophisticated in cocktail-length dresses. Marcia Cross' blush-toned Elie Saab was a wonder, with dozens of elaborate floral appliques.
The more mature contenders certainly didn't let age-old fashion directives affect their choices. Fortysomethings like Sedgwick and Mary-Louise Parker showed off manes that could sweep chimneys. Holly Hunter, at 50, looked ready to hang 10 with her beach bunny blond locks.
Oh, and was there a big game on this afternoon? How else to explain the fact that the men didn't exactly go all out? Most arrived in simple, knotted ties and nary a lapel pin. The guys from "Entourage" in shiny matching knotted ties and tousled hair could easily have been mistaken for a boy band, if it hadn't been for Kevin Dillon's sleek bow tie. Patrick Dempsey and Lee Pace (the latter a nominee for "Pushing Daisies") also commanded respect in sophisticated tuxedos.
But in the end, it was Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men" who caused red carpet collisions and gapes of envy in her ruched Tadashi gown. The sheer magnitude of her alabaster bosom made her stand out like a natural monument. Add to that a goddess-like upsweep of her Titian locks and dramatic cat-eye make up. Sometimes, more is more.