Before the first statue was presented at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, Calif., eight days ago, style reporters were already talking about the hottest fashions on the red carpet.
Gwyneth Paltrow arrived in a stunning, white Tom Ford cape and gown. Michelle Williams wore a trendy red peplum dress by Louis Vuitton. Viola Davis dazzled in an elegant emerald green Vera Wang gown.
These and dozens of other A-list celebrities set the tone for the black-tie fashions that soon will be hitting stores across America.
Fashion experts have weighed in with differing opinions on who were the biggest trendsetters at the country's top entertainment awards show. The fashions have been just as talked about as the night's award winners, if not more so.
"The Oscars, above all other awards shows, is the epitome of glamour," said Emily Goodin, owner of Boutique Couture, a bridal and formalwear shop on Market Street. "Being on the Best Dressed list for the Oscars is like taking home a golden statue of fashion."
Goodin said she already has in stock a dress with a similar silhouette to the dress worn by Williams: "a gorgeous Dalia MacPhee gown with a sweetheart neckline, fitted top and fabric draping at the hip."
Goodin said seeing the dresses on celebrities at the televised awards ceremonies can help local women become familiar with the coming trends.
"For the mainstream public, it takes seeing the styles on other people, mainly celebs, to really grasp and accept a trend," she said. "I think the trendsetting celebrities are a mix of the latest teen crazes, such as Taylor Swift, the Twilight cast, Selena Gomez, and
Hollywood's big names, such as Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock and Natalie Portman.
The Times Free Press asked Goodin her views on the most-talked-about looks of the night. Here's her off-the-cuff critique (questions and answers have been edited).
Q: Which gowns did you most like?
A: My top three favorites were Kristen Wiig, Cameron Diaz and Jessica Chastain. Wiig, who co-wrote and starred in "Bridesmaids," wore a gorgeous nude-colored gown by J. Mendel that had a fitted top, drop waist and a full skirt. Diaz wore a fitted, asymmetrical mermaid gown with strips of fabric draping among bronze sequins. Chastain wore a black and gold fitted mermaid gown by Alexander McQueen.
The keys to looking your best in an evening gown, which these three ladies got right, are fit and color. The gown has to fit your body and your body type, and the color has to work with your skin tone.
Some of my other favorites of the night: Gwyneth Paltrow was gorgeous in a white Tom Ford gown with a cape; Michelle Williams, Penelope Cruz and even E! Channel's Nancy O'Dell looked beautiful on the red carpet. And, for once in George Clooney's life, no one was looking at him. His girlfriend, Stacy Keibler, looked stunning in her strapless, metallic gown with a floral accent at the hip.
Q: Who had the best look of the evening?
A: It's hard to choose just one, but I would have to say Jessica Chastain.
My least favorite of the night was Sandra Bullock. Her dress was ill-fitted and matronly.
I wasn't a fan of Jennifer Lopez's gown either. We are sick of seeing every part of your body either through mesh or because it's so tight you can hardly walk. This time (Lopez) gave us both. I'm over it.
Natalie Portman wore a vintage Christian Dior, and that was the gown's only redeeming quality. From first glance, she looked like she was going to prom.
Q: What did you think about the hairstyles, which seemed more relaxed, and the jewelry, which seemed less prominent?
A: I noticed many stars with their hair down this year. Usually the glamour of the Oscars calls for a sleek up-do. However, wearing your hair down can add some sexiness to a sophisticated dress.
The jewelers must have been a little disappointed with the "less is more" trend this season. Many stars wore minimal, if any, jewelry, or they chose one statement piece such as a necklace or a cuff bracelet to accent their gown.
Q: The clutch seemed to be the standout accessory of the evening, but is this handheld purse practical?
A: I've never had fun with a clutch. I always leave it on a table and then wonder where I've put it all night. It's just not practical to mingle and dance at a party with something in your palm all night. However, I will agree that having lip gloss and mints on hand is convenient. To carry one or not to carry one, that is the question. I guess it depends on how much you really need those mints. Fashion wise, make sure your nails look pretty because your hands cover up half of the fashion statement you're trying to make with a clutch.
Q: One of the most controversial looks of the evening was Angelina Jolie's awkward pose, with her leg prominently displayed in her dark Versace dress. What's your take on why she did it?
A: Angelina Jolie? Why are we still talking about her? If her leg had any shape to it, then we might be glad to see it poking out of her way-too-high slit in the gown. I think her leg was the only thing people could talk about because her dress certainly didn't leave a lasting impression.