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When it comes to Oscar dressing in a recession, actresses seem to divide into two camps: those who dialed it down and those who amped it up.

At the 81st Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre Sunday night, nominees Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep and presenters Jessica Biel, Evan Rachel Wood and Tilda Swinton opted for monochromes and subtle jewelry, rendering the red carpet a procession of cream, nude and black gowns.

But there was still a reliable contingent ready to bring on the sparkle and color. Marion Cotillard and Sarah Jessica Parker pulled out corseted, belted Dior Haute Couture numbers, while Amy Adams went scarlet, turning to Carolina Herrera again for her second Oscar-nominated outing.

“She sent a sketch of this dress and it seemed like a feat to put it together, but this impeccable craftsmanship was the reason I chose it,” said Adams.

There was plenty of bling to be had, too: first-time nominee Taraji P. Henson, in Roberto Cavalli, was unapologetic about glamming it up. “I’ve got designers throwing clothes and diamonds at me. It’s an incredible ride and I wouldn’t tone down a minute of it,” said the actress.

The men certainly had a less energetic take on their pre-awards routine. Nominee Josh Brolin jokingly referred to his Dolce & Gabbana tux as “Uh, Levis,” while nominee Brad Pitt claimed it was all status quo.

“Well, getting ready is more like it always is: you put on one sock and then the other and then you put on your pants.…It’s simple,” said the Tom Ford-clad actor.

However, it seems whatever one’s persuasion, the Oscars have become sartorial-central, arguably inching out the evening’s cinematic drama.

“Well, it seems to be more about fashion, doesn’t it?” said Kate Winslet, surrounded by cries of “Who are you wearing?” (Yves Saint Laurent, for the curious.)

Luckily Penélope Cruz didn’t have to choose: she won on both the red carpet and the big screen.

“I first saw this dress eight years ago but I knew I didn’t have anywhere to wear it then so I said to [Lily et Cie’s] Rita [Watnick] ‘I’ll be back,’” said the Best Supporting Actress winner of her vintage Balmain. “And literally, when I came back this year, the dress was still there, so it was meant to be.”


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