Grammy Awards: Fashions go glam, without the usual shock factor

After a string of more sartorially subdued award shows, the Grammys are usually a welcome relief, with plenty of flash and sometimes shocking outfit choices. But this year, the artists who walked the red carpet left the sequin pasties and overly themed outfits at home, favoring relatively tame metallic gowns, dresses with angular cutouts and animal prints.

Nicki Minaj, wearing the most over-the-top get-up on the carpet, was clad head to toe in a leopard print. (And, yes, it was literally head to toe, as the platinum hair close to her head was painted with leopard spots and a cotton candy-esque tower of more blond hair spouted up like the Bride of Frankenstein's signature do.) The look was created for her by Givenchy Haute Couture, right down to the leopard-print leggings and booties.

Animal prints weren't limited to the women. Swizz Beatz wore a loud leopard-print jacket over a black shirt and black trousers. Muse drummer Dominic Howard donned a spotted blazer in lieu of a traditional tux jacket. Even Jaden Smith appeared in leopard-print pants with red and black sneakers during his performance with Justin Bieber.

Gowns with angular cutouts were also in abundance. Ciara was stunning in a blue and white Emilio Pucci dress that included skin-revealing cutouts on top and a higher-than-thigh-high slit up one leg. Rihanna's Jean Paul Gaultier gown made it look as though rows and rows of cake frosting had been piped onto the singer's body, and where there wasn't frosting (or in this case, tulle) there was skin.

Plenty of women chose to go for the gold — and play it safe at the same time. Selena Gomez chose a silvery-gold V-neck gown from J. Mendel that was slightly slinky but still allowed the teenager to look age-appropriate. Heidi Klum, in Julien MacDonald, LeAnn Rimes in Reem Acra and Kim Kardashian in Kaufman Franco — all wore similar shiny gold, long, V-neck gowns.

Those who didn't play it safe were Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

Gaga didn't try to top her meat dress from last year, but instead went for a different protein. She conceptualized her entrance in her Hussein Chalayan-designed pod — and her outfit — around the egg for her "Born This Way" performance. She "hatched" from the egg wearing a transparent yellow raincoat-style jacket and a wide brim hat that made for one of the least flashy ensembles we've seen from her so far. Her cropped top and long skirt with a high slit were extremely minimal, allowing her to dance, sing and successfully emerge from her pod.

Katy Perry, her grandmother and her husband Russell Brand were all dressed by Giorgio Armani. Perry's white dress was typical of her style — low-cut with plenty of texture and embellishment. But this time, she was wearing what looked like a heart-shaped, white feather backpack. Perhaps she couldn't find a clutch for the evening and wanted a built-in place to store her things. Or maybe she was just wearing a large feathered backpack. These are the Grammys, after all.

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