LOS ANGELES – Even with many looks ripped from the high-fashion runways, the risks were few on the red carpet at Sunday night's 60th annual Emmy Awards.
Still the payoffs were big for some stars. Christina Applegate, Mariska Hargitay, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Sandra Oh were among the confident women who best combined elegance with some personality.
What else ruled the red carpet? Gowns in shades of purple; dresses with one shoulder or none; and sweeping updos that helped stars beat the Los Angeles heat. There also were black dresses, white dresses, black-and-white dresses and a lot of shine.
"Grey's Anatomy" star Oh was one of the big fashion winners, redeeming herself for time previously served on a few worst-dressed lists. Lisa Rinna, TV Guide Network's style commentator, picked Oh as the most improved star.
She came in a retro-style black lace dress by Oscar de la Renta with a ribbon sash and a few sparkles on the skirt. They matched her gleaming 5.5-carat (each!) emerald-cut diamond earrings by Bulgari.
Applegate, star of ABC's "Samantha Who?" didn't disappoint in her much-anticipated red-carpet return after breast-cancer surgery in a dramatic, sweeping gown in ice blue with metallic patches by Reem Acra.
"I think Christina Applegate was one of the best-dressed of the night," said stylist Mary Alice Stephenson. "She was glamorous, elegant and she pushed it."
Her dress also picked up on an emerging catwalk trend, the asymmetrical look. "Law & Order: Special Victins Unit" star Hargitay worked the same style in a very different way: She wore a soft one-shouldered, marigold-yellow gown by Carolina Herrera.
Another ripped-from-the-runway look was "Desperate Housewives" star Marcia Cross' nude-colored Elie Saab dress with flower appliques.
Rinna pointed out the good looks didn't melt in the heat: "It's hard to walk that red carpet when it's so hot and stay looking fresh and great -- yet they all did it."
Then there were the women who went with this fall's deep, bold hues, particularly purple.
"Housewives" star Nicolette Sheridan wore a sleek strapless gown by Angel Sanchez in purple. Laura Dern did purple too; Holly Hunter of "Saving Grace" wore a plum Jenny Packham gown with a jeweled waist.
Tina Fey of "30 Rock" left her signature glasses at home, wore her hair down and chose a sexy sweetheart eggplant-colored gown by David Meister in what seemed an obvious attempt to avoid Sarah Palin comparisons.
"Lipstick Jungle" star Brooke Shields went with a bright lipstick-pink color strapless gown with a ruffle down the front and brooch on the side of her waist by Badgley Mischka.
Louis-Dreyfus, star of CBS's "The New Adventures of the Old Christine," showed off her trim figure in a salmon-colored Narciso Rodriguez dress with a fitted shiny bodice -- complete with a sliver of skin showing under the bust.
Show co-host Heidi Klum, and nominee for her work on "Project Runway," had the opportunity to take the most risks: She planned no fewer than six outfits as she extended her red carpet walk in a custom Giorgio Armani Prive gunmetal metallic gown with a one-shoulder capelet to hosting duties on the broadcast.
Plenty of other stars also stayed away from colors, going for metallics or black or white.
Jennifer Love Hewitt -- her hair in a bedhead bun -- told E! that her white-with-black strapless gown by Carolina Herrera was an easy choice. Vanessa Williams wore a splashy white-and-black print dress by Kevan Hall with a jeweled strap that went from her shoulder to just below the waist -- a look worthy of her fashio n editor character on of ABC's "Ugly Betty."
White was also worn by "The Closer's" Kyra Sedgwick, whose dress by L'Wren Scott featured diamond embroidery.
Olivia Wilde of "House" said of her white Reem Acra goddess gown: "I really love it -- it feels very classic and flowing and beautiful. And the earrings and the ring are Kwiat, and they're just so fun to wear, I'm really having fun tonight."
The black fan club included "Betty's" America Ferrera in a bubble-hem dress and Hollywood siren-style red lipstick and "Anatony's" Chandra Wilson in a gathered Tadashi Shoji halter gown.
Kate Walsh of "Private Practice" wore a Zuhair Murad gown with alternating rows of crystals to go with a complete set of diamond-and-platinum jewelry by Neil Lane. Dana Delaney, the newest member of "Housewives," chose a vintage gown splashed with an Art Deco-style beaded embellishment.