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At the Oscars, a thoroughly modern red carpet

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Kerry Washington attended the 88th Annual Academy Awards.
Kerry Washington attended the 88th Annual Academy Awards.(Kevork Djansezian)

The Oscars red carpet can sometimes disappoint. Some years, there are too many gowns of the same color or cut, as if a memo had been sent out to every stylist in Greater Los Angeles. Sometimes risky choices fall flat or look ridiculous. Other times, it's just dull.

But this year, good taste reigned (for the most part), with Hollywood's biggest names wearing their stylish best. Actress Kerry Washington typified the evening's sleek elegance with a stunning black-and-white gown from Versace, its black leather corset top a perfect match for a long cream-colored skirt. Her hair, pulled back in a chic ponytail that would make Ariana Grande jealous, added just enough sexy cheek.

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Others embraced color. Alicia Vikander went with a buttery yellow, Olivia Munn tangerine, and Charlize Theron a rich crimson. It was a veritable rainbow out there in front of the paparazzi, even if the Oscar nominees this year were of more or less one hue.

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Daisy Ridley tried very hard for her first Oscars red carpet. The 23-year-old "Star Wars" actress wore a bejeweled Chanel frock in a pale blue — youthful but not girlish. Her shoes sparkled. And yet the length of the dress didn't quite work and the cut didn't flatter. Still, she'll get another shot at the red carpet soon enough.

Daisy Ridley.
Daisy Ridley.(Richard Shotwell)

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Certain colors can be a crapshoot, and dusty yellow is one. But best supporting actress winner Alicia Vikander pulled it off beautifully, wearing strapless Louis Vuitton with a poofy, high-low hem. Her barely done locks were a perfect complement — youthful and fresh.

Alicia Vikander.
Alicia Vikander.(Jason Merritt)

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Emerald green made two major appearances on the red carpet: a sexy slip dress on "Spotlight" star Rachel McAdams and a plunging sequined number on "Brooklyn" actress Saoirse Ronan. The winner here: Ronan's Calvin Klein gown, the verdant tone chosen as an homage to her native Ireland.

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Saoirse Ronan.
Saoirse Ronan.(Jason Merritt)

MISS

Note to Heidi Klum: Sometimes it's best to avoid the spotlight. Froofy, frilly lavender Marchesa? Topped with a flower on one shoulder and another at the waist? And a single "I Dream of Jeannie" sleeve? No, Heidi. Just no.

Heidi Klum.
Heidi Klum.(Jordan Strauss)

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Olivia Munn wins the Oscars red carpet — in the not-nominated-but-happy-to-be-there category. Her orange Stella McCartney gown could not have been more flattering (though the girl could use a sandwich, just sayin'). And her beau, Green Bay Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers, was the perfect accessory.

Olivia Munn.
Olivia Munn.(Jason Merritt)

MISS

Did Bryan Cranston think he was making an appearance at Chippendales post-Oscars? What else could explain the "Trumbo" nominee's all-satin tux? OK, OK, maybe it wasn't satin, but it was certainly shiny, a no-no for any gentleman on the red carpet. What would Heisenberg think?

Bryan Cranston (left) nd Robin Dearden.
Bryan Cranston (left) nd Robin Dearden.(Jordan Strauss)

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The most polarizing gown of the night might have been Rooney Mara's cream lace Givenchy Haute Couture gown. There was a lot going on here: a diamond cutout at the waist, the frill-trimmed slit to the thigh, fussy buttons, a peplum, and an open back. But somehow, even with Mara's weird teeny, tiny bun, it worked.

Rooney Mara.
Rooney Mara.(REUTERS)

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"Inside Out" star Mindy Kaling owned the red carpet in an elegant black column dress, accented by a rich blue train. Meanwhile, every woman in America was applauding those smart little sleeves, deftly covering any upper-arm jiggle. Why doesn't every dress have those?

Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling(Jordan Strauss)

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The deep, plunging neckline has been popular at award shows recently. But Olivia Wilde wore it best at the Oscars. Her pleated Valentino gown was gloriously modern, while a wide choker grounded the look with a classic traditionalism.

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Olivia Wilde.
Olivia Wilde.(Jason Merritt)

Hayley Kaufman can be reached at hkaufman@globe.com.