LOS ANGELES – The best word to describe the red-carpet fashion at the Academy Awards: red.
Katherine Heigl, Helen Mirren, Miley Cyrus, Ruby Dee, Anne Hathaway and Heidi Klum were among the stars in red gowns Sunday night at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Shades of plum were worn by Cate Blanchett and Jessica Alba.
"The actresses went regal and royal with rich reds and purples," said Oscar.com fashion analyst Tom Julian.
Photo Essay: Oscar Fashion
Photo Essay: Red Carpet Arrivals
The other buzzword? Safe.
"I thought people looked generally really good -- and really safe," Hal Rubenstein, fashion director at InStyle magazine, told The Associated Press. "I don't know if it had to do with the mood out there with the strike just over and parties canceled, but in fashion now so much is about sheer, print and color, but this was one solid strapless dress after another."
Rubenstein added: "There was a kind of uniform timelessness, which is very nice, but considering those who watch this show do it to get a fashion cue, I wish they were a little more timely than timeless."
He labeled French actress Marion Cotillard's ivory-and-silver gown by Jean Paul Gaultier with scalloped fabric that looked like fish scales the most distinctive of the night.
Jennifer Hudson, who caused last year's biggest fashion flap with a futuristic bolero jacket, was more appropriate this year in a white halter gown.
Pregnant actresses Blanchett, in a Dries van Noten halter gown with floral beading on the skirt, and Alba, in a strapless Marchesa gown with feathers at the bustline, both embraced their revised shapes in empire-waist gowns. Nicole Kidman, also pregnant, went with a simple black gown by Balenciaga and a show-stopping necklace -- 7,645 diamonds totaling nearly 1,400 carats by L'Wren Scott.
Feathers were a recent trend on the runway and Penelope Cruz's black strapless gown had them too.
W magazine fashion market editor Treena Lombardo reminds at-home fashion followers not to take trends from the red carpet too seriously for their own lives. "I don't think any of the trends the Oscars hit are trends the rest of the world needs to know about," she said.
She did notice all that red, though.
"Heidi Klum was the most beautiful I've ever seen her," Lombardo said. "Amy Ryan was the opposite. She was very minimal and very chic -- an exact 180 from what Heidi was doing."
Klum's full-volume gown was by Galliano and is being auctioned as part of The Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness about women and heart disease. Ryan's one-shoulder, midnight-blue dress was custom-made by Francisco Costa for Calvin Klein.
One-shoulder gowns were also popular, worn by Hilary Swank in Versace, Olivia Thirlby in Vera Wang, Hathaway in Marchesa and Heigl in Escada. Heigl's gown had a slim-fitting draped bodice, and the front of Hathaway's gown was covered in fabric roses.
Tilda Swinton, who told E! she had never even seen the Oscars on TV, wore an odd one-arm gown by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin and no apparent makeup, a look that seemed in character for the British actress.
Calista Flockhart went for a vintage ice-blue goddess gown from Rare Vintage.
Several stars opted for strapless styles, including Renee Zellweger in a silver lace gown by Carolina Herrera. The dress had sparkle but was otherwise simple to complement her short hairstyle.
"It was a gloomy, cloudy, wet Oscars and she looked drop-dead gorgeous and radiant," said stylist and style commentator Mary Alice Stephenson. "She looked like what she was supposed to look like at the Oscars, she looked her most glamorous."
Jennifer Garner and Laura Linney also chose strapless gowns and then accessorized them with prominent necklaces. Garner's black Oscar de la Renta dress had an almost flamenco-style skirt and was accessorized with an art deco-era necklace with 61 carats of diamonds from Van Cleef & Arpels, while Linney's dark-blue gown with a bustle back by Michael Kors highlighted a gold pendant-style necklace with diamond and blue topaz by Cathy Waterman.
Keri Russell's champagne-colored Nina Ricci strapless dress came to life with an H.Stern vintage floral necklace from the private vault of Hans Stern.
Cameron Diaz's strapless Christian Dior gown was a pale peach color and had pleats on the bustline. "I put it on and felt like I was wearing nothing," she said.
Diablo Cody also was in Dior -- an animal-print gown with a jeweled halter neck -- but she didn't wear the $1 million Stuart Weitzman shoes that she labeled a "cheesy publicity stunt." She opted for gold flats instead.
Amy Adams was far more pleased with her Proenza Schouler strapless gown in emerald-green, double-sided silk. "I'm just over the moon with it," she said. Adams carried a tiny Art Nouveau French gold-mesh purse by Fred Leighton.
Stephenson lamented that so many celebrities and designers played it safe. "I had expected people to take more chances. I saw the incredible gowns that were available. I was pretty shocked that a lot more of them weren't utilized," she said.
Cyrus, for example, looked pretty in her cap-sleeve Valentino, Stephenson said, but it was "a bit boring."
However, Pati Dubroff, the Dior makeup artist who worked with the teen star, said she thought Cyrus looked like a "youthful beauty."
Dubroff used minimal makeup, mostly a lip stain, a lot of mascara and a bit of glitter. "To make it special I used glitter like fairy dust. She's a Disney princess come to life."
W's Lombardo didn't have such kind words for another young star, Saoirse Ronan. She thought the green chiffon gown by Alberta Ferretti looked like it was made from living room curtains.
But Ronan had her own reasons for wearing it. "I chose green because I'm Irish. I wanted to walk down the red carpet and let everyone know I'm Irish."