Last year’s Oscar red carpet looked a bit like a fire sale at Rachel Zoe’s showroom. The theme was no theme. Red clashed with coral. Blue fought emerald green, and column dresses went head-to-head with tiered evening gowns. It made for a kaleidoscopic red carpet, but it also left fashion trend soothsayers on edge all night (The trend is white! No, the trend is black! No wait, strapless?)
Sunday night at the Academy Awards, there was no escaping the array of pale tones that dominated early and lingered into the night. It seemed as if most of the female nominees got the memo that no-color is the color of the season.
When Jessica Chastain arrived in a curve-hugging beaded Amani Prive gown inspired by Marilyn Monroe, she was the first of several actresses to prefer blush, or similarly pale hues.
Amy Adams, in a stunning and elaborate sea foam Oscar de la Renta gown, looked as if she had arrived from a different decade. The intricate craftsmanship of the layered ruffled tulle had the look of old Hollywood, and the faded tone of the gown only enhanced the illusion.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Zoe Saldana, who arrived in a very modern Alexis Mabille Couture dress, in white and gray.
There were exceptions, as there always are. There were a few actresses in gem-like deep blues. Halle Berry opted for black and silver. Singer Adele added a dark sparkle to the carpet, and Nicole Kidman wore a liquid metallic black and gold gown by L’Wren Scott. Here are a few of our favorite — and not-so-favorite — looks of the evening.
If more actresses followed Spencer’s lead, the red carpet would be a much more beautiful place. Last year, she arrived in a pitchperfect, glittering Tadashi Shoji gown. Spencer is no fool. She chose Shoji again for this year’s Oscars — and looked equally gorgeous.
Her custom-made Alexander McQueen gown glimmered with subtle tones of gold. What made Seyfried’s dress so special was all the things it wasn’t: splashy, attentiongrabbing, or skinbaring. Even her styling was understated. We’re overlooking some fit issues (the top of the dress was a bit airy) because the rest of the dress was so stunning.
For those who turned up their noses and called the night of pale colors too safe, we point to Chastain’s very risky form-fitting Armani dress. Her peaches and cream complexion against a shimmering nude fabric could have easily landed her on the worst-dressed list. Instead, she came off as both sexy and demure with a perfectly tailored silhouette and a glamorous red lip.
The competition for best-dressed of the night was a lock between Chastain and “Silver Linings Playbook” actress Lawrence. Her white Dior Couture gown could be viewed as a touch bridal, but it was far more classic than wedding march. The term “old Hollywood” is tossed around a bit too leisurely, but Sunday night it was the best way to describe Lawrence. She also wins the award as most improved. This is a massive improvement over her Golden Globes gown catastrophe.
As soon as “Les Misérables” star Hathaway arrived on the red carpet, the social media universe exploded, claiming that the actress was showing more anatomy than she should. The darts on her pale pink Prada gown created an illusion that . . . will be carefully analyzed for days to come. It was an illusion that unfortunately overshadowed Hathaway’s recent red carpet winning streak. Hathaway has wisely learned to choose subtle dresses that emphasize her best asset — her beautiful looks.
Like Lawrence, Theron opted for pale Dior Couture, but took her strapless look in a timeless direction. With her close-cropped tresses, Theron could have drawn unkind comparisons to 1980s film star Brigitte Nielsen (there were a few to be found on Twitter). But no matter what was said about her hair, this dress was nearly perfect in every way: From the V-cut neckline to the length of the train to Theron’s understated styling.
It was charming to see the 9-year-old actress in her very grown-up gown. But Wallis upstaged all other actresses on the red carpet with her choice of accessory, a puppy-dog purse wearing a tiara, tutu, and Swarovski crystals.
Pairing a classic silhouette with a very modern shade of blue kept Witherspoon from looking too retro on the red carpet. For many, however, the dress was simply an accessory to Witherspoon’s perfect coif.
Hunt could very well be the first nominated actress to wear H&M to the Oscars, but she was a little too eager to tout the company and its environmentally friendly advancements. So we’ll just ignore that and enjoy the novelty.
This awards season, Field couldn’t decide if she was feeling demure like Gidget or sassy like Carrie (her character from “Smokey and the Bandit”). At the Oscars, she decided to go — well, it was as far from sexy as you can manage.
The one nice thing that can be said about Melissa McCarthy and award ceremonies is at least she’s consistent. Unfortunately, it’s consistently unflattering. Her drab frock was only made worse by hair that looked as if it had been styled by a ride in a convertible.
Fonda scores points for wearing a color that stood out compared to all others on the red carpet. Unfortunately, that color happened to make Fonda resemble a Versace-wearing Chiquita banana.Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@
globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_