Jennifer Lawrence exhibited the power of red in a silk crepe tank dress from the Calvin Klein collection. The silhouette was the epitome of simplicity The scoop-neck, body-hugging sheath with not one bell, whistle or sequin let a vivid shade of red do all the work.
Sandra Bullock wore a similar gown, this one by Vera Wang. Like Hathaway's, her skirt had plenty of volume. The strapless bodice was structured, showing off Bullock's small waist and toned arms. It was quite a different look for Bullock, who arrived to accept her lead actress award last year in a pale gold gown and Veronica Lake hair. (This year, her hair was twisted into a regal updo.)
New mom Penelope Cruz looked svelte in a red silk dress with hand-embroidered sequins by L'Wren Scott. But perhaps the most arresting version of the color was worn by Jennifer Hudson, who showed off her newly slender figure in a warm tangerine halter gown by Atelier Versace.
Those who didn't get revved up in red shone in metallic shades, mostly silver. Mandy Moore was a surprising showstopper in a silver, crystal-smattered Monique Lhuillier dress. The crystals were sparse at her chest, dense at her waist, looking almost as if the designer had gently swept sparkles across Moore for an ethereal effect that was eye-catching but light as air.
The shade also looked fresh on Michelle Williams, in a silvery-white beaded Chanel haute couture gown from the spring-summer 2011 collection. Her signature platinum pixie cut was cool but not icy.
Halle Berry was stunning in a silver Marchesa gown with champagne tulle appliqué at the hem of the skirt and a gentle row of ruffles at the strapless neckline.
The year's youngest nominee, Hailee Steinfeld, dazzled in a pale pink, tea-length Marchesa gown festooned with crystals, which the actress said she initially sketched herself and helped design. Like her other red carpet choices this season, this one showed that the actress clearly has an eye for fashion and for looking charmingly age-appropriate.
Other ice queens on the carpet were Gwyneth Paltrow in a pale gold Calvin Klein column gown and Hilary Swank in a heavily textured, silver strapless gown from Gucci.
Neither ice nor fire, but certainly on the warm side of the spectrum, were Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. Both actresses donned a darker version of red that bordered on burgundy — Johansson in a form-fitting lace gown from Dolce & Gabbana and Portman in an off-the-shoulder draped gown by Rodarte (her usual go-to for red-carpet dresses, though this was the first time she's worn the label during this award season).
Accessories were surprisingly subtle for the most part, save for a few major statement pieces. Amy Adams jazzed up her L'Wren Scott column gown with a Cartier necklace that layered over the navy blue beads of the dress. Portman looked radiant in Tiffany rubellite tassel earrings with rose-cut diamonds. Nicole Kidman added even more sparkle to her white, origami-esque Dior haute couture gown with a long 150-carat diamond necklace from Fred Leighton that she shortened to wear as a choker around her neck, letting the rest of the diamonds drip down her back.
But as most everyone knows, all these on-loan sparkly baubles will be returned, and the most coveted accessory of the night is the golden statuette.