LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The women of Hollywood returned to razzle dazzle with an array of strong colors and sparkling gowns on Oscar's red carpet on Sunday, in contrast to more somber ensembles that were in vogue the past few years.
The bright fashion choices turned the tide from more muted and conservative styles of recent years that reflected the world's economic woes. Indeed, Hollywood seemed jubilant when arriving for the world's top film honors.
Among the ladies in red were Oscar co-host Anne Hathaway in a Valentino dress with volume in the back, Sandra Bullock in a strapless Vera Wang and young best-actress nominee Jennifer Lawrence in a minimalist Calvin Klein.
"It's simple and beautiful," said Lawrence of her gown.
"Oscar gowns have gone so far away from the classic gowns with those plunging necklines," said InStyle magazine's fashion director Hal Rubenstein. "This year so much is about cut and shape and really strong color."
Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, appearing on the arm of husband and best actor nominee Javier Bardem, wore a figure-hugging, sparkling red gown after giving birth to her first child only a month ago. Jennifer Hudson went even brighter, amping up with a tangerine Versace halter dress.
Stylist Quela Renee said the form-fitting gowns were very "Hollywood glamour." "It was back to the '60s, very 'I Am Woman,'" said Renee, citing such actresses as Cate Blanchett, Scarlet Johansson and Anne Hathaway as examples.
There were also several shades of purple, like the aubergine Rodarte on a pregnant Natalie Portman, a best actress nominee. Her "Black Swan" co-star Mila Kunis chose a wispy lavender Elie Saab.
"It was the first dress that I tried on today. It was between this dress and another one I tried on," Kunis told Reuters of her ultimate decision.
Silver seemed to be everywhere, either head-to-toe or embroidered into the gowns in tiny beads.
Gwyneth Paltrow shone brighter than an Oscar statuette with a modern silver sheath by Calvin Klein. "They made it for me," said Paltrow, "I wanted wear a kind of a wetsuit, a glamorous wetsuit."
Hilary Swank wore a silver strapless Gucci with gray feathers at her feet. Halle Berry also went strapless and silver in her Marchesa gown.
Nicole Kidman, nominated for best actress for "Rabbit Hole," wore a white strapless Dior with silver embroidered throughout. "I just liked it, I'm very simple like that," said Kidman. Her competitor in that category, Michelle Williams of "Blue Valentine," had sparkle in her pearl gray Chanel.
Amy Adams, nominated for best supporting actress for "The Fighter," chose a tight-fitting midnight blue L'Wren Scott gown punctuated by little silver lights.
"Black has almost been eliminated," said InStyle's Rubenstein. "And that is reflective of the runway. When the economic turndown hit and everything came to a halt, designers had to look and see what would get people back in stores again. Black was not going to do that. Designers needed to look at new colors, new dressmaking techniques."
Despite the two days of rain in Los Angeles ahead of the show, Sunday proved to be dry and chilly. Up close, actresses were covered in goosebumps that were missed by TV cameras.
Stylist Michael O'Connor said because of the cold, he was "fully expecting to see long sleeves or bolero jackets on gowns or wraps." However, when the stars hit that carpet, all weather considerations were put aside.
"The weather had no effect on people's choices," said O'Connor. "I think everyone said, 'Buck it up, let's bare the cold, this is the Academy Awards' and they stuck it out."
Editing by Mary Milliken