But the ladies did find ways to inject some oomph to their funeral chic. Amy Adams in Oscar de la Renta and Anne Hathaway in Armani Privé ordered extra sprinkles on their confections; a plunging neckline and tiered skirt of ruffles on Evan Rachel Wood's Elie Saab Haute Couture gown made us gape in a good way. On the opposite end of the spectrum, bridal white was a popular choice for stars such as Beyoncé, Kate Beckinsale and Eva Mendes. One-shouldered gowns, too, were spotted aplenty on actresses like Laura Linney (also in Elie Saab, this one pale yellow) and America Ferrera, one of the few to arrive in a cocktail-length dress.
The decided lack of dramatic color was remedied by a few TV actresses, who may have been out to prove that small-screen stars need attention too. Eva Longoria Parker was a sexy stop sign in a fitted maraschino-red Reem Acra with a fish tail, and Christina Applegate chose a dramatic butter-hued Roberto Cavalli that was somewhat fussy from the waist down. Cameron Diaz's one-shouldered edible pink taffeta Chanel dress was also hard to miss.
Thankfully, there were some major tsunamis and triumphs too. Drew Barrymore was Marilyn Monroe-glam in a tight, smoky-blue Galliano for Dior, and with her disheveled blond coif, she looked as if she'd arrived in a convertible limo. Reneé Zellweger puzzled in a kooky gown with a sheer top and an up-do like baked Alaska.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, statuesque in a one-shoulder turquoise leopard-print Lanvin, proved that glamour doesn't preclude comfort, as her dress featured an elastic belt. Who ever thought the words "elastic" and "elegant" could mate? Angelina Jolie wore a loose-fitting silver Versace dress that will surely get the gossip-mongers predicting that she is pregnant once again. Hey, maybe she just wanted to be able to exhale.
The lack of statement necklaces was another sign of the times. Beyoncé, Applegate and Mendes adorned their clavicles with heist-worthy jewels, but most of the other stars preferred oversized chandelier earrings. Sure, there were plenty of diamonds. But a bushel of rubies on Beckinsale and emerald earrings on Adams stood out as smart alternatives to colorless, flashy carats.
Kristin Scott Thomas (in Lanvin) accessorized her deliciously draped taupe dress with almost $1.5-million worth of Martin Katz jewelry in a brooch, bracelets, earrings and a 15-carat Cognac diamond ring. But her makeup was recession-sensitive.
"We did a '40s-style look, which is actually wartime makeup," says makeup artist Vanessa Scali, who gave Thomas a strong lip and clean eyes. "In a strange way, it's a nod to what's happening today."
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In the end, being in touch meant striking the right balance of conscious glamour. If you piled on the priceless jewels, you laid off the dramatic makeup. If nothing else, lately we've learned that you can't -- in good taste -- have it all.