LOS ANGELES - Glamour. Glamour. More Glamour.
The gown was adorned with huge teardrop-shaped crystals. "It's the Oscars and there's so much tradition, I wanted to go old-school glamour," said Watts, who wore her hair in an updo and simple, dewy makeup.
Charlize Theron went with a sentimental favorite: a nude beaded Gucci gown by Tom Ford, who just showed his last collection for the label.
"I've always been a huge fan of his work. I thought if he's leaving, I want to wear one more dress," Theron said.
Theron's silver purse was done by a fellow South African, Lana Marks, and her drop earrings by Chopard featured 46 diamonds and were nicknamed "The Shooting Star."
Many stars seemed to go for neutral colors as a way to show respect for the Oscars, said Cindi Leive, Glamour magazine's editor in chief.
"It's kind of incredible how retro glam the whole thing is. ... There was nothing rock 'n' roll," Leive said.
Scarlett Johannson's green Alberto Ferretti gown was "apropos for her moment in time," said Reeve Chace, author of "The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion" (Reed Press).
Renee Zellweger again looked to Carolina Herrera, wearing a white strapless column gown with a draped bodice and back bow. She also wore almost $1 million worth of Cartier jewels, including a 73-carat oval and pear-shaped diamond necklace with a 35-carat diamond bracelet.
"I loved the elegant and regal look of white on Renee," said Tom Julian, fashion commentator for the Web site Oscar.com. Julian also praised Susan Sarandon's black cap-sleeve, silk satin Gucci dress and Oprah Winfrey's sea foam green wrap gown by Gianfranco Ferre.
But Julian said the exotic and ethnic look of Uma Thurman's white layered gown with a bolero jacket and colored sash "wasn't exactly right on."
Keisha Castle-Hughes, 13-year-old star of "Whale Rider," wore a beaded whale barrette in her hair. She also gave a boost to designer Liz Mitchell from her native New Zealand in a classy, age-appropriate pink dress with Swarovski crystals in the shape of a New Zealand fern on the bodice. A sheer pink capelet was the perfect topper.
"I feel like I'm floating. It's like I'm having a total out-of-body experience," said Castle-Hughes.
Veteran Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo wore a red lace gown with a train by Iranian designer Simin. "I did this on purpose. My heart belongs to Iran."
The embroidery on the bottom of Nicole Kidman's light green satin Chanel gown took more than 400 hours to do. The top of the strapless dress was simple, with just a touch of lace at the top of the bodice, allowing a necklace of 195 carats of natural green diamonds custom designed by L'Wren Scott for Bulgari to really shine.
"I love the feathers! It was a very easy decision," Bullock said.
Julianne Moore's Versace dress was a light gray sheath with a lace spider's web embroidery with crystals and pearls.
Stella McCartney designed the 1930s-inspired ice blue, silk satin dress that transformed Scottish singer Annie Lennox into a Hollywood princess.
An elegant Jude Law wore a navy three-piece tuxedo from Dunhill. "I'm a fan of old-school tailoring. They told me tuxedos used to be made in midnight blue so I just went along with the tradition."
Jamie Lee Curtis, who normally favors dark, subdued dresses, wore an uncharacteristically sexy Monique Lhuillier blue ombre silk chiffon strapless gown with ruching at the bust and scarf ties. "I've now broken every rule I ever set for myself."
Also in blue was a pregnant Marcia Gay Harden, who said she didn't want her Badgley Mischka gown with antique beads around her waist to disguise her burgeoning belly. "I'm so proud of it," she said.
Marc Jacobs frequently cites Sofia Coppola as his muse, so it was no surprise that she chose a black dress by the designer.
Catherine Zeta-Jones raided the Versace archives to find the inspiration for her fiery red scoop-neck gown.
Other outstanding looks were Diane Lane's white gown with silver beaded cutouts, complemented by simple-yet-elegant 6-carat diamond stud earrings from Harry Winston; Patricia Clarkson's high-neck, nude-colored beaded gown by Michael Vollbract for Bill Blass; Angelina Jolie's plunging white V-neck by Marc Bouwer; and Liv Tyler's black Givenchy Couture dress with its low back and long train.