Red all over, except the shoulder

The Baltimore Sun

Anne Hathaway came early onto the red carpet and ended up the bellwether of the night's top trends - brilliant red, hanging from just one shoulder and topped with a charming, easygoing ponytail.

"She had it all going," said US Weekly style director Sasha Charnin Morrison of the actress, who wore Marchesa. "She was like a triple threat."

At the 80th annual Academy Awards, the red carpet gave glamour-starved Hollywood watchers what they've been waiting out the writers' strike for - elegance and star-shine.

Red, red, red was all anyone was talking about. It was Hathaway's choice and also that of Katherine Heigl, Helen Mirren, Heidi Klum, Miley Ray Cyrus, Ruby Dee - the list goes on.

There were, of course, other colors sashaying into the Kodak Theatre, but all any fashionista noticed was the redder than red.

"I liked the ladies in red," said stylist Phillip Bloch. "It looked really bright and strong."

The other colors suffered beside it.

Bloch dismissed the poor souls who opted for the safety of black as "blah." "Little black blah, blah, blah dresses," he said.

Ellen Page, nominated for best actress for her turn as a pregnant teen in Juno, earned the most tsks of disapproval for her choice of a plain black gown with spaghetti straps. As youthful and refreshing as she is, the dress all but sapped it away.

"Not that she didn't look pretty," said Laird Borelli, senior features editor at Style.com, "but she's so young and has such charm. The black she favors so much doesn't capture the vibrancy of the character that she played and her youth."

Another actress who stumbled in her choice of black was Tilda Swinton. Though celebrating her best supporting actress win for Michael Clayton, she looked near-funereal in Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, with no visible makeup and little jewelry. And thanks to her bright red, cropped hair, she bore an uncanny resemblance to actor Eric Stoltz.

One former Oscar winner who did black justice was Hilary Swank in Versace. The off-the-shoulder cut with a flutter of flowers along the strap earned lots of compliments from style-watchers.

Another was Jennifer Garner in a fitted, strapless Oscar de la Renta, complemented with striking diamond cuff bracelets and a choker.

As beautiful as she is, Marion Cotillard, who won the best actress Oscar for La Vie en Rose, looked simply curious in a couture fish costume. It's unclear whether designer Jean Paul Gaultier had the ocean in mind when he created it, but the French actress looked as elegant as a land-dweller could in what could only be described as scales.

But back to the reddest red carpet in recent memory.

Heigl, also keeping with the asymmetrical-shoulder trend, looked stunning and incredibly glamorous in the tone of the evening.

The color worked for young and old alike. Cyrus pulled it off in Valentino, and Mirren looked typically regal in Reem Acra with bead-embroidered sleeves.

The pregnant actresses didn't let their baby bumps hold them back. Jessica Alba looked lovely in a deep plum Marchesa dress with a feathered detail across the bodice and a flowing, flattering cut.

Cate Blanchett, also expecting, showed it off in purple.

Some of the few stars who chose pale tones were Cameron Diaz in a washed-out pink, Keri Russell in an even lighter, nearly nude pink, and Renee Zellweger in silver lame.

Next to the jewel tones - including, of course, red - the pastels faded away.

All told, it was enough swish and glitter for the fashion-hungry to get their fix.

"It was a very beautiful, very safe, but very elegant Academy Awards," Morrison said. "No horrendous looks. Nobody laid an egg. Generally, the gowns were really extraordinary. We've been waiting for this."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

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