Hollywood is the stuff of fairy tales, and at the Academy Awards on Sunday night, celebrities dressed the part. Recession may be reality, but the gowns and jewels were pure escapist fantasy. Because let's face it, if stars aren't glamorous, they aren't doing their job.
There was a magical-princess aura to many looks, in a palette of pales keeping with the spring season's trend for powdery colors. The best was Sarah Jessica Parker's silver embroidered, sea foam silk tulle Dior Haute Couture bustier gown, cinched at the waist, with an enormous ballerina skirt, followed by Penelope Cruz's 1950s vintage Pierre Balmain strapless ivory lace gown, hand-embroidered with gold bullion threads.
Miley Cyrus' ivory silk chiffon Zuhair Murad confection, with scalloped tiers and foil-like embroidery, was too much dress for a 16-year-old. Similarly, Marisa Tomei's dove gray, one-shoulder Versace gown with spiraling origami pleats was so ornate, you barely noticed her. Anne Hathaway looked like a mermaid in Giorgio Armani Prive's champagne-colored mermaid gown, covered in half-dollar-sized clear paillettes, but I wonder whether it crunched when she sat.
Taraji P. Henson, in a rippling cream chiffon Roberto Cavalli column, offset by a red Mary Norton clutch, was the evening's best dressed. I loved it when she lifted her skirt to show Ryan Seacrest her shoes and you could see her Spanx. That's reality.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, February 24, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 135 words Type of Material: Correction
Oscar photographs: In some editions of Monday's Calendar, a photograph with an article about the backstage scene at the Oscars said that it showed Jack Black with a stage director. Black was with the telecast's producer, Laurence Mark. And a caption on a photograph of "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle being congratulated after the show said he was being embraced by his wife. She is his ex-wife. Also, a photograph of Kate Winslet, Sean Penn and Penelope Cruz on the section cover was credited to Los Angeles Times photographer Jay L. Clendenin, but the picture was taken by Times photographer Lawrence K. Ho. And with the article about red carpet fashions, the photograph of actress Taraji P. Henson wearing a Roberto Cavalli gown should have been credited to Times photographer Bryan Chan, not Wally Skalij.
Henson's 19th century diamond flower Fred Leighton necklace exemplified the statement-jewelry trend. Amy Adams also wore an impressive Leighton piece, a 1950s colored gem and diamond collar. Viola Davis fastened a 1950s Leighton clip brooch to the front of her fabulous gilded Reem Acra goddess gown.
Freida Pinto proudly showed off a diamond ring of East Indian provenance. Her one-sleeved, midnight-blue beaded lace John Galliano gown was an interesting choice. I liked the way the shape echoed that of a sari, but somehow it aged her, especially with her hair up.
Red dresses, the surest way to va-va-voom glamour, were also popular -- Adams in red Carolina Herrera with a sculptural pleated bodice and Heidi Klum in a red silk taffeta RM by Roland Mouret gown, slit high.
Kate Winslet wore a one-shouldered blue-gray Yves Saint Laurent gown (the silhouette was all over the fall runways in New York last week). But what I really loved was her hair -- a sculptural flip styled by Renato Campora (he explains his technique on the Image section blog All the Rage, latimes.com/alltherage).
Hairstyles looked more modern than ever, particularly Henson's sleek bob and Jessica Biel's easy 'do, the front pulled back and the rest tumbling loosely around her shoulders.
Brooks Brothers dressed the evening's "biggest littlest" stars, the children from "Slumdog Millionaire," in tiny tuxedos. Brad Pitt was in head-to-toe Tom Ford, and as usual, Giorgio Armani had quite a pack of fellas, including Sean Penn and Anil Kapoor. Burberry dressed Hugh Jackman in three different tuxes, and Dev Patel. I only wish Patel's Brooks Brothers bow tie had been bigger. It would have balanced out those cute ears.
It's been fun to watch Mickey Rourke do the red-carpet rounds because he actually takes risks, unlike so many stars. On Sunday night, he wore a Jean Paul Gaultier white wool tuxedo with a black vest and chained, zipped-up watch pockets. Around his neck was a photo pendant of his recently deceased pooch Loki. Gotta love it.
I'm all for self-expression, but Philip Seymour Hoffman's black knit cap made him look as if he were en route to a jewel heist. Lord knows he was in the right place.