LOS ANGELES — They overdid it, they underdid it. And a handful really got it right.

These days looking great on the red carpet means dressing appropriately for each event. Gravitas that worked well at the Emmys looked dour on Sunday night, while actresses decked out in their over-the-top best would have been better off saving it for the Oscars. Debra Messing, on a roll for the past three years, went a little fashion mad with her cascading blue Oscar de la Renta ballgown. “I feel like a rich French girl on the Riviera gone bad,” she declared. Likewise, winner Rachel Griffiths got lost in the drama of her marabou and sequin-covered Valentino couture. “I like a bit of pink,” she said, poufing up her already poufed-up hair. She should have stuck with a bit. As for Sela Ward, she looked great in red, but couldn’t pull off her bowed and baring Valentino. And Cameron Diaz? Poor girl. Why can’t she ever score a dress worthy of her? She usually goes for quirky. This time she just got it wrong wearing a Vivienne Westwood dress in awning stripes. Meanwhile, Heather Locklear suffered a serious fashion flashback with Farrah-flipped hair and a sparkly Celine number straight out of St. Tropez, circa 1970.

Then there were the laid-back ladies, like Jennifer Aniston and Laura Harring, who looked more like producers in their pantsuits than stars. At least Sissy Spacek had the gumption to make hers a Giorgio Armani tuxedo, while Jessica Alba and Annette Bening opted for suits in white.

As the savviest among the Hollywood crowd know, when the silhouettes are simple, details shine. Jennifer Connelly’s Narciso Rodriguez gown (based on a design Bette Davis wore in “Now Voyager”) benefitted from a single gardenia. And Nicole Kidman’s simple laced sheath, by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, was turned va-va-voom via some major slit action.

“Tom made pants out of this [fabric] for the spring collection. So I asked him if he could make a dress,” said the Globe winner.

Other carpet walkers let color do the talking, including Calista Flockhart in her sexy pink Oscar de la Renta, Jennifer Garner in roaring red and Halle Berry, who matched her beaded brown Valentino gown with a simple pair of Harry Winston diamond studs.

Of course, there are those who can get very fashion-y and still pull it off. Tilda Swinton went to fashion mavericks Viktor & Rolf and came away wih a look that was both artsy and austere. Could she be Hollywood’s next fashion pioneer?

As for Sarah Jessica Parker, well, at least she’s entertaining. Absolutely loony accessories — a large antique cameo necklace and retro camellia in her hair — took her billowing Chanel dress and skinny pants combo to the brink.

Now if only we could see what was left on the fitting room floor.