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Oscars 2013: Red carpet swings from old Hollywood to sleek modernity

Giorgio Armani S.P.A.VersaceVeronica LakeHelen HuntPradaNicole KidmanOctavia Spencer

It was like an Oscar flashback with all the Giorgio Armani gowns, Harry Winston bling and Veronica Lake waves on the red carpet Sunday.

Then there was a Sharon Stone Gap turtleneck moment, when Helen Hunt revealed that her navy blue gown was from none other than cheap chic retailer H&M. (Apparently it was a custom job; Hunt worked closely with H&M designers exchanging sketches, fabrics and samples, according to the retailer.)

PHOTOS: Oscars 2013 best dressed on the red carpet

Back to Armani, though. He should get his due. After all, he practically invented the Oscar red carpet designer derby when he started dressing Jodie Foster and others in the 1990s. He dressed three out of the five lead actress nominees Sunday night, each of them in a distinctive way, which is no small feat. They didn't look like they were necessarily wearing Armani; they just looked great.

Naomi Watts' Armani gown was futuristic, with all-over gun-metal gray sequins and galactic-inspired cap sleeves, while Jessica Chastain's strapless, coppery-nude sequin mesh Armani gown was old Hollywood glam at its best.

PHOTOS: Oscars 2013 worst dressed on the red carpet

The two looks said it all about this year's Oscar red carpet at the Dolby Theatre: It was about extremes.

One of the biggest trends of the night? Icy, pale shades. Many of the dresses were of the frothy, fairy-tale variety, namely Amy Adams' pale blue, frayed organza Oscar de la Renta princess gown; Octavia Spencer's blush tulle, one-shoulder Tadashi Shoji cream puff creation; and Jennifer Lawrence's strapless pale pink-and-white Dior bustier ball gown.

Charlize Theron's sculptural white silk Dior peplum gown was more ice queen, especially with her sleek new hairstyle. But my favorite was Zoe Saldana's belted, silvery gray dress by the little-known French designer Alexis Mabille. It was classically beautiful but with lots of surprises, including petal-like details on top and asymmetrical tiers on the bottom. It was nice to see a new designer name in the mix too.

Oscars 2013:Winners | Red carpet | Fashion | Show highlights | Nominee list | Timeline

In a red carpet season in which everyone has been laser-focused on wardrobe malfunctions, Anne Hathaway came close to having one. Her icy pink duchesse satin Prada column gown made her look like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn (and wow, those Tiffany diamonds!). But Hepburn probably would have worn another layer underneath to keep things from popping up.

At the other end of the Oscar style spectrum were stars who turned on the diva sparkle (the 76-year-old Shirley Bassey in a "Goldfinger" gold gown, among them.) These divas provided the naughty to the cream puffs' nice.

There was Halle Berry looking fierce in a Bond-girl-meets-glam-rock way, wearing a black-and-silver striped, long-sleeve Versace creation. Nicole Kidman's all-over black-and-gold beaded L'Wren Scott gown was more a modern art piece, with unique curlicue motifs on the skirt.

Jane Fonda, a diva in a class of her own, wore a canary-yellow corseted Versace gown with strong shoulders and sequin details that were a deliciously retro throwback to the "Dynasty" era. But let's be honest: What made this look really rock is Fonda's perennially-toned physique. Truly old Hollywood at its best.

booth.moore@latimes.com

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