The Show Must Go On

A Nod to Old-School Glamour on the Oscars Red Carpet

Penélope Cruz   
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"Everything is being downsized because of the recession; next year I'm starring in a movie called New Zealand," said Oscars host and Australia leading man Hugh Jackman before his opening number at the 81st annual Academy Awards. But Jackman, performing with David Rockwell's intimate-yet-swanky new stage set as a backdrop, brought a big dose of good old-fashioned showmanship to the task. And the recession didn't do much to tone down the fashions or the jewels on the red carpet, either. Best Supporting Actress winner Penélope Cruz donned a Balmain couture gown circa 1950 that was worthy of a fairy-tale princess. "Has anyone ever fainted up here?" she asked from the podium. "I might be the first." (The strapless Dior Couture Sarah Jessica Parker wore actually was tight enough to make the SATC star swoon.) Kate Winslet, who won Best Actress for The Reader, channeled the fifties as well, choosing a one-shoulder gray and black Yves Saint Laurent by Stefano Pilati number and doing up her blond locks Grace Kelly style.

Like Winslet, Marisa Tomei in pearl gray Versace, Heidi Klum in carmine red RM by Roland Mouret, and budding fashion darling Freida Pinto in blue John Galliano took cues from the recent runway shows, where asymmetric necklines were an important trend. But strapless was the big silhouette of the night, with Natalie Portman, Marion Cotillard, and Amy Adams wearing bustier gowns by Rodarte, Dior Couture, and Carolina Herrera respectively. The big color? White, be it Mickey Rourke's Jean Paul Gaultier tuxedo, Jessica Biel's strapless Prada, Anne Hathaway's glowing paillette-covered Armani Privé, or Taraji P. Henson's Roberto Cavalli.

Some came over low-key, like Angelina Jolie in black Elie Saab—well, low-key, except for those drop-dead Lorraine Schwartz emerald earrings and ring. Tilda Swinton, going off script as usual, skipped a gown in favor of a sand-colored blouse that matched her blond hair from her Oscar go-to guy, Lanvin's Alber Elbaz. But there was nothing downplayed about the moment when five previous Best Actress winners—Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry, Shirley MacLaine, and Sophia Loren—took the stage together to announce this year's nominees. That lineup was a game argument for the continued relevance of glamour in "times like these." And, as Kate Winslet implied in her acceptance speech, we can all dream, can't we? "I'd be lying if I said I hadn't made a version of this speech when I was 8 years old staring into the bathroom mirror," the British actress said. "It was a shampoo bottle then. Well, it's not a shampoo bottle now."

See a list of the Academy Award winners >

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