SOME nights, you just can’t win. This year, no matter how much effort a woman going to the Emmy Awards put into choosing a gorgeous gown, borrowing dazzling jewelry, having her coif styled and her telegenic face made up, competing with the “Desperate Housewives” was bound to be a lost cause.
Viewers who missed the red carpet pre-shows didn’t have long to wait to see the quintet of faux suburbanites, since they pranced out en masse to present the first award. If you believe the modesty rap that actresses typically lay on interviewers, each housewife only wanted to look nice and avoid lipstick on her teeth. But just in case Vanity Fair is right and rivalry really does exist on Wisteria Lane, we’ll rank the hausfraus on their big night out.
The winner (in her lead actress category as well) is Felicity Huffman, in a sleek strawberry bias-cut silk satin gown by Kevan Hall with Swarovski crystals adorning the waist and wide straps. Huffman manages to look comfortable and effortlessly sexy when she dresses up. Her grandmother obviously told her the same thing yours did: Wear a dress, don’t let it wear you. The runner-up is Teri Hatcher, elegant in a deep purple strapless by J. Mendel with jewels circling an empire waist. Marcia Cross wore an overwrought deep emerald taffeta gown by Elie Saab. It fit beautifully (not always the case when designer duds are borrowed), but her flowing hair counterbalanced the dress’ fussiness. Nicollette Sheridan’s icy pink strapless satin Armani was washed out by the television lights, but her simple ponytail and understated jewelry -- diamond earrings smaller than grapes -- contrasted nicely with the slutwear her character favors.
It wasn’t Eva Longoria’s best showing. She’s the youngest and arguably most beautiful in the cast, and undoubtedly has years of awards shows ahead of her. Her coral crepe column by Angel Sanchez didn’t look bad -- Longoria could make baggy overalls look fetching. But with its deep, deeper, deepest slit baring the chest and its neckline laden with blobs of gold and turquoise, the dress looked a little mall.
Magnolia pins made by Los Angeles jewelry designer Michelle Roy were worn by men and women to show support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The white blossoms looked suspiciously like the classic Chanel camellia. Whatever. Better to show support for the displaced with a flower associated with a major fashion brand than not at all. Portia de Rossi pinned hers at the waist of her weightless orange chiffon gown by Ungaro. Orange was a popular color, also worn well by Lauren Graham and Mariska Hargitay.
Jennifer Love Hewitt did an Audrey Hepburn turn in a full-skirted black strapless tea-length gown. Patricia Heaton and a very pregnant Jennifer Garner went for strapless black dresses too.
A strapless dress wrapped and tucked at the bodice can look like a towel, unless it’s purple and on Halle Berry. Glenn Close’s black velvet Armani strapless gave minimalism a good name again.
Watching an awards show as a fashion derby is rewarding when actresses wear gowns a mere mortal wouldn’t dare don. Mischa Barton’s glittering nude slip dress and Kyra Sedgwick’s naked strapless both belonged in the “don’t try this at home” category.
The makeup artists who sacrificed their Sundays to turn actresses into convincing beauties used heavy-duty false eyelashes and pale, natural lip colors. Combined with wavy hairstyles or loose up-dos, the effect was soft, feminine and not a bit desperate.
IN GOOD FORM: If an Emmy were handed out for best wardrobe malfunction, Sunday night’s would have gone to “Law & Order” star S. Epatha Merkerson. Accepting the trophy for lead actress in a miniseries or movie (for “Lackawanna Blues”), she peered down her blue strapless gown, looking excited but forlorn. “I wrote something, but it fell down and I can’t reach it,” she said. “Mom is going to kill me!”