Fabulous as a formality

Fashion ShowsEntertainmentSalma HayekJessica AlbaCharlize TheronFelicity HuffmanHilary Swank

RULES for the red carpet: Don't look like you didn't even try; don't look like you tried too hard; don't ape Charo, Barbie or Cher, circa 1978. Actresses who break the rules do so at their peril — think of all the glossy magazines and tabloids, not to mention all the amateur wits dishing to their buddy lists, ready to blast an extremely public fashion faux pas.

So to beat those publications to the punch line, we offer Helena Bonham Carter and her date, director Tim Burton. He wore an intensely red shirt and black suit with a dark tie dotted with skulls and crossbones. Her bosom-baring, steel blue satin 1940ish dress didn't fit, or did it? The style was so odd it was hard to tell. And as if the cascades of fabric encasing her little body didn't look strange enough, she topped off the creation with a hairdo that could only have been created in an asylum.

Bonham Carter had little competition for the night's booby prize. It's a dirty job, going for that ad hoc award, but somebody has to do it. And once it is claimed, we can move on to celebrating the women who, with just a few months to prepare, with only the assistance of stylists, makeup artists, hairdressers, psychics, dermatologists, plastic surgeons and personal trainers, as well as generous jewelers and fashion designers, must achieve fabulosity.

When fabulous is the standard, it's difficult to rise above the crowd. Michelle Williams managed to, by choosing a unique color. Her lovely marigold dress featured a neckline of pleated ruffles and a sparkling, slender belt. Keira Knightley's shirred cinnamon mermaid gown by Vera Wang was also sui generis.

There were enough jewel tones in evidence to signal an '80s revival — Jada Pinkett Smith's sleek electric-blue strapless, Salma Hayek's flowing teal blue jersey, Meryl Streep's lovely garnet ball gown and Jennifer Lopez's overwrought green chiffon.

So few women opted for black that those who did stood out: Jennifer Aniston in a soft, simple black gown was jazzed up by vintage diamond ropes from the Bulgari archives. Felicity Huffman's bare, architectural Zac Posen with a sweeping train was enhanced by her impeccable posture. Hilary Swank's strapless black sheath was dazzling in its simplicity. Catherine Keener and Charlize Theron picked charcoal gray, a color that can be dangerously mother-of-the-bride. But Keener's Monique L'Huillier stunner with a full tulle skirt looked terrific, simultaneously gorgeous and comfortable. Theron has had so many red carpet triumphs that she might have been due for a slip. The elephantine bow on her shoulder and midcentury uptight updo were evidence of an off night.

It's odd that Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts, fair-skinned platinum blonds, wore colorless dresses. Watts' ruffled nude confection by Givenchy was destroyed enough to convey an air of abandon. Kidman's embellished ivory column was far more contained. Reese Witherspoon's graceful, full-skirted gown started out nude, but layers of ribbons and jewels gave it color and shine. Jessica Alba, successfully channeling Ava Gardner, showed them all how to wear pale gold. Her bejeweled Versace gown is the night's most likely to be knocked off and show up at many a prom.

Fortunately, it was a good hair day — not too humid, too dry, too windy or wet. Romantic, wavy chignons were plentiful. Huffman decorated hers with a diamond gardenia brooch. Big teardrop earrings were the evening's top jewelry choice.

Carolina Herrera loaned best supporting actress nominee Amy Adams her own aquamarine and diamond drops to complement the brown silk ball gown she designed. Now that's full service.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Fashion ShowsEntertainmentSalma HayekJessica AlbaCharlize TheronFelicity HuffmanHilary Swank
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