Back in the good old days, a bare navel was the must-have accessory at the Grammy Awards. Nearly everyone -- from Sinead O'Connor in a sports bra and jeans in 1989 to Sheryl Crow's yellow gown with a yard or two of missing fabric in 2005 -- has exposed enough midriff to scare censors. It was often tacky. It was always terrific. And we, as viewers, rejoiced.
But for musicians, a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a brand -- one that might lead to a beauty endorsement deal or a shot at designing denim. They stopped dressing like rock stars, and the Grammys became glutted with tasteful gowns. Sunday night, many of the female nominees could have been en route to a premiere of "Aida." There was a lot of black and plenty of dresses that wouldn't make a pastor flinch.
Miley Cyrus, 16, and Taylor Swift, 19, looked more like thirtysomething Park Avenue socialites than teen pop divas in sophisticated black gowns on the red carpet. During the pre-show, Welsh breakout chanteuse Duffy revealed that she had opted for a subdued black velvet Alberta Ferretti cocktail dress over her initial, more risque choice: "I got in the car, and you could see way more than you would want to see." (Cher would be disappointed.) Carrie Underwood, in a lovely gold, beaded slip gown by Zuhair Murad on the red carpet, later performed in a much flirtier chiffon minidress. Alas, Leona Lewis' Randi Rahm gold crisscross gown wasn't fun or flattering.