Hollywood magic worked its most potent spell last night on Abigail Breslin. With whimsical sleight-of-hand, the preteen Cinderella was transformed from the gawky, bespectacled beauty pageant contender she played in Little Miss Sunshine, to a composed little princess, worthy of any crown.
Her red-carpet transformation came during last night's presentation of the 79th Academy Awards, a razzle-dazzle evening of visual delights.
Abigail turned up in what resembled an "Easter basket dress," said Joanne Stoner, founder of eDressMe.com, an online retailer of designer fashions. "It's very cute for her, a nice style given her personality."
Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres in a burgundy velvet tux supplied the bons mots, and actresses Rinko Kikuchi, Penelope Cruz, Anika Noni Rose and other celebrities supplied the telegenic bon bons for a ravenous, global audience.
In a sea of haute couture, several definitive trends emerged, said Gina Kelly, Seventeen magazine's fashion director.
Many sirens went strapless and eschewed necklaces for bare necklines and sparkling earrings.
A spectrum of blush tones infiltrated acres of black, interrupted by occasional eye-popping blues, oranges and reds.
Actress Cruz was ravishing in a strapless, blush gown by Versace with a train so long that it nearly tripped other stars. An "Oscar-worthy dress," Kelly pronounced.
And in her champagne Vera Wang, Rachel Weisz was "amazing," she said. Ditto Cate Blanchett in Armani Prive.
"She always looks impeccable," Kelly said. With her mint green, one-shouldered, "very Grecian" gown, Kate Winslet hit the trifecta: "All the trends in one dress!" Kelly said.
From Jennifer Lopez to Portia de Rossi, starlets solved their what-to-wear dilemma with a Grecian formula. Kelly noted "a lot of draping," and "not such a sexy-to-the-body silhouette."
She singled out Lopez's dress by Marchesa, with very beautiful diamond trim, as well as de Rossi's navy, braided halter gown with a plunging back.
As she kept her eye on the televised awards ceremony, Kelly only found fault with Jennifer Hudson's odd metallic, Jetsons-like jacket that threatened to beam her up to a sad fashion planet.
"It's like she went to Contempo Casuals. It looks really cheap," Kelly said.
Once she took off the abbreviated jacket with wing-like collar, Hudson was the picture of elegance.
Last night's Academy Awards rewarded experience as well as winsomeness. The red carpet parted for the likes of Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren, both women of a certain age.
Mirren, in particular, looked spectacular in her metallic Christian Lacroix frock, Stoner said. She loved the ruching in the bodice of Mirren's dress and its long, flowing skirt.
"Just so appropriate for her age and flattering," Stoner said. "It's nice to see a dress that can be interpreted for older customers."
Streep, though, seemed to deliberately counter her fashionista turn in The Devil Wears Prada, with an earth-mother ensemble best worn to vegetarian potluck suppers.
Other red carpet highlights: Presenter Jessica Biel in a fuchsia halter dress by Oscar de la Renta. She felt "comfortable and chic," Biel told Ryan Seacrest during E!'s live red carpet coverage.
Gwyneth Paltrow wore a peach cap-sleeve pleated dress by Zac Posen. "Loved this with her skin tone," Kelly said.
Cameron Diaz wore a white strapless (naturally) Valentino gown.
Anne Hathaway's black-and-white Valentino didn't earn raves. "It wasn't the most flattering dress she could wear," Stoner said. And Kirsten Dunst's gamin gown canceled itself out with too many elements, including a feathery hem that seemed to have come from another design.
"I was happy to see with the guys that nobody tried too hard," said Katrina Szish, style director of Us Weekly. The "classic tuxedo is the most appropriate [garb]" on Oscar night, she said. "People didn't go in for bizarre colored shirts and matching ties or bolos or jeans with their jackets."
Actors such as Greg Kinnear, who wore a black, two-button notch lapel tuxedo with a white dress shirt by Calvin Klein, was a case in point. "From Leo DiCaprio to Martin Scorsese, all of these classy Hollywood guys went for the classic Hollywood look," Szish said. "It was so refreshing that they weren't trying to be different."