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The Red and the Black

2008's Oscar dresses offer a tale of two hues

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Jennifer Garner.
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Katherine Heigl.
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With the absence of a grand-scale blockbuster nominee and the only recently ended bitterness of the writers' strike, there was inevitably some question as to whether these twin dark clouds (and Sunday's rainy weather) would cast a pall over fashion and film's biggest night of the year. Well, the answer is yes and no. Undeniably, it was a carpet populated by subdued, dark-hued dresses on a gaggle of style-setting A-listers: Tilda Swinton in a stark, one-sleeved, black Lanvin gown; Amy Adams in a jewel-toned Proenza Schouler strapless number; Penélope Cruz in navy, feather-trimmed Chanel Haute Couture; Hilary Swank in jet-beaded Atelier Versace; a beautiful and pregnant Cate Blanchett in purple Dries Van Noten; Laura Linney in Michael Kors; Jennifer Garner in a flamenco-skirted, strapless Oscar de la Renta; and Nicole Kidman in Balenciaga and L'Wren Scott diamonds.

Ultimately, of course, this is still a celebration. That was reflected in what turned out to be an extremely popular color: red. Anne Hathaway pulled it off best in an asymmetrical draped gown by Marchesa with a spray of sculpted rosettes that set off her porcelain skin to lovely effect. The design duo scored another hit with Jessica Alba in a feather-trimmed gown in deep burgundy that deftly disguised her third-trimester state. Katherine Heigl wore a cherry shade with old-Hollywood curls and matching lips. When it came to the actress with the most to celebrate, though, the lady wasn't in red (or black for that matter). Marion Cotillard accepted her Best Actress award in a mermaid-inspired, white-and-gold halter dress made for her by Jean Paul Gaultier. It was the most fashion-forward choice of the evening and will doubtless have both fans and detractors. Somehow, we doubt Cotillard will lose sleep over any of that.

See a list of the 2008 Academy Award winners >
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