Rather than giving in to the pressure of dumping their designer dresses when war broke out a few days before, red carpet habitués instead dumped their megawatt diamonds, scaling back on necklaces and rings, and then scaling back on big hair in favor of sleek chignons. Still, they managed to make Oscar’s 75th birthday colorful, as almost every actress opted for a strong striking color all her own, with shapes staying mostly close to the body — but not too close.

This story first appeared in the March 25, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Instead of the usual sea of black — or last year’s sea of nude pinks — J. Lo opted for mint green, Julianne Moore for bottle green, Jennifer Garner for sky blue, Marcia Gay Harden for turquoise, Renée Zellweger for crimson, Hilary Swank for ombréd pink, and Queen Latifah in beaded blue. The dress hues were so strong that they begged for bare necks, and the understated up-dos that emulated old movie stars’ style begged for those long dangly chandelier earrings Nicole Kidman has made so popular.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kidman and Julia Roberts went stark black — and these ladies almost always do — whereas gold made a reappearance as Oscar’s most classic and popular shade. From Diane Lane’s feathery Oscar de la Renta — a convergence of the top of one gown and the bottom of another design — to Kate Hudson’s sparkly Versace to Halle Berry’s shimmery sand-shaded Elie Saab, gold was almost a safer choice than black.

Trends: a strong lip, the up-do with back-of-the-head detail, the chandelier earring.

Biggest fashion winners of the night: Versace, who dressed Hudson, Garner, Heather Graham, Anjelica Huston and Zeta-Jones; Tom Ford, who’s YSL ruffled gown was Julianne Moore’s best look ever; and Paper Bag Princess — Elizabeth Mason’s L.A. vintage shop whose profile was always lower than Lily et Cie and Decades — until Roberts wore her vintage Jean Jourban Paris dress to the Oscars.

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