When in doubt, stick with Plan A. That seemed to be the decision of the most visible actresses at the Academy Awards.
In the days leading up to the ceremony, it was assumed that some glamour girls would replace their carefully selected gowns with sackcloth.
Hardly. From Renee Zellweger's backless red lace Carolina Herrera to Jennifer Lopez's turn as Jackie O in a one-shouldered, mint green vintage Valentino, the message on the abbreviated red carpet was that only a party pooper would dress down on Hollywood's big night.
Three of the most stunning women there -- Kate Hudson in Versace, Halle Berry in Elie Saab and Diane Lane in Oscar de la Renta -- all chose nude chiffon gowns sparkling with sequins and rhinestones. Standing together, they would look like most the beautiful girl group ever.
The audience at the Kodak Theatre was not a sea of black. In fact, the noir faction looked as if it had made deliberate choices in peacetime, not switched to a subdued alternative.
There was Nicole Kidman swathed in gauzy black, wearing the evening's most coveted, ankle-hugging shoes and Meryl Streep in a full-skirted strapless gown by Angel Sanchez, her shoulders covered by a shrug that nominated costume designer Ann Roth made for her. Salma Hayek's black lace halter top gave way to a white silk charmeuse skirt and Cameron Diaz's girly Prada dress was black at its most cheerful.
Of course, men wore standard black, except for Sean Connery, whose very unstandard ruffled white jabot peeked out of the short, boxy jacket designed by his wife.
Heather Graham, Kathy Bates, Hayek, Hudson, Jennifer Connelly and many others observed the diamond anniversary of the awards by snapping ice onto their ears. The trend to earrings that cascade from earlobe to collarbone that Nicole Kidman started at the Golden Globes continued as if the bling-bling's dazzle would never dim.
Those who spurned black picked a wide range of intense colors. The skirt of Jennifer Garner's bold blue Versace gown was slit in two places. Queen Latifah's dusky blue gown by Bradley Bayou bared her shoulders. Hilary Swank wore a bright pink Dior minidress with a long tulle overskirt. Marcia Gay Harden's teal chiffon was one of several great green gowns. Julianne Moore's emerald strapless with ruffles down the front and back had been on the Yves St. Laurent runway just two weeks ago in Paris.
The best way to show off fabulous earrings was to pull hair back into elaborate chignons, a choice Kidman, Moore and Lane made. Some stars stopped to talk to the media as they walked in. Chad Lowe won the evening's honesty award. When asked what designer dressed him he replied, "I don't know. Whoever wants to give me free clothes."
'To all our men and women overseas, Godspeed.... And to the Iraqi people let's have peace soon and let you live without war.'
Frank Pierson, Motion Picture Academy president