WEARING IT WELL OSCAR'S HOMECOMING A CAUSE FOR DRESSING UP RIGHT.
The red carpet scene was looking rather dark Sunday afternoon with storm clouds overhead and celebrities in conservative black gowns and tuxedos - until the Tinseltown glamour queens arrived.
Halle Berry turned the heads of Oscar watchers outside the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood as she arrived in an Elie Saab gown featuring a burgundy tulle top embroidered in silk thread with strategically placed beaded flowers and a full double taffeta skirt.
Nominees Nicole Kidman and Kate Winslet looked as though they were attending a Roaring '20s party. Kidman wore a Chanel pink-chiffon, spaghetti-strap gown with tiers of ruffles running down the bodice. Winslet was clad in a flamboyant, form-fitting red gown with a feathery shoulder strap.
Best supporting actress winner Jennifer Connelly wore a champagne- colored strapless gown with a tiered skirt by Balenciaga with matching scarf.
Jennifer Lopez decided to try the tasteful route this time show in a pink fitted Versace gown, pearl necklace and a '60s-style bouffant hairdo.
Change was in the hair this year with many actresses wearing upswept styles. Marisa Tomei, Cameron Diaz, Renee Zellweger, Winslet and Julia Roberts wore loose sweeps, while Connelly pulled her dark locks severely back from her face.
The upswept hair perfectly displayed shimmering (borrowed) jewels. Laura Harring of ``Mulholland Drive'' wore a strapless red-and-black Armani gown, but what really dropped jaws was the $27 million, 77-carat Archduke Joseph Diamond necklace designed by Alfredo Molina, and $1 million diamond stiletto sandals by Stuart Weitzman.
``I'm the most heavily guarded girl out here,'' she said, referring to the four security guards who followed her everywhere. ``I guess they don't trust me.''
Kidman wore 241 carats of raw Bulgari diamonds - worth $4 million - wrapped tightly around her fair neck in a design she inspired.
Many celebrities, though, chose to let the jewels shine against classic black.
Oscar winner and show narrator Glenn Close shimmered in a sheer, black long-sleeve Vera Wang gown that tapered neatly down her still-petite frame. Not far behind, but showing off a little bit of it, Sharon Stone sauntered in, wearing a corset-style flapper dress with cascading fringe falling down her legs and a plunging back that made more than a few heads turn.
Also taking their cue from the Roaring '20s, presenter Reese Witherspoon (in beaded black antique lace) and Oscar darling Tomei (in a stunning navy, chiffon gown, accented with Charleston-style, draping diamond necklaces) winked at the crowd with a red-carpet sophistication typically reserved for old Hollywood. Tomei even did a little shimmy to please screaming photographers.
All sporting unique creations, Helen Hunt (in skin-tight satin), Roberts (in long-sleeve Armani elegance with side and back cutouts), Zellweger (in a classic strapless ball gown), Sandra Bullock (decorated with oversize sequins) and Gwyneth Paltrow (having a J-Lo moment with her see-through mesh gown) took basic black into new territory, proving the only thing needed to be truly fashionable is poise, grace and a dazzling smile.
The typically stunning Faith Hill looked like a bad watercolor painting that had been smudged. Her rainbow-colored gown was crumpled and unflattering even to this rare beauty.
One frock that might get people talking was Sally Kirkland's metal-alloy dress with adjustable ruffles. She used a push-button device to move the ruffles around her body.
``I had fun when I went through the metal detector,'' she quipped.
Staff writer David Kronke and wire services contributed to this story.
(1 -- color) Faith Hill arrives at the Oscars in a rainbow-sherbet-hued gown.
(2) Julia Roberts
Michael Owen Baker/Staff Photographer
(3 -- 4 -- color) Kirsten Dunst, left, in a pastel and gold-flecked gown, makes her entrance with photographers clinging to her every move, while Halle Berry, above, displays sheer elegance.
(5 -- 6 -- color) Sharon Stone, left, shows why she's back in fine form at the Oscars. Above, Cameron Diaz, left, and Gwyneth Paltrow take the neckline plunge together.
(7 -- 8 -- color) Supporting actress winner Jennifer Connelly, left, looks a bit ruffled - but in a good way. Above, Nicole Kidman, left, arrives at the ceremonies with her sister, Antonia.
(9 -- 10) ``Mulholland Drive's'' Laura Harring in a $25 million diamond necklace and $1 million diamond-studded shoes.
(11) Renee Zellweger
(12) Jennifer Lopez
(13) Jada Pinkett-Smith
(14 -- 15) Former Oscar winner Helen Hunt, below, arrived in a sleek gown, while the gown worn by Glenn Close, right, had a sweep of train. Jon Voight, at Close's right, sported a dashing scarf with his tux.
(16 -- 17) Reese Witherspoon, left, arrived in vintage Valentino, while best supporting actress nominee Marisa Tomei, above, wore a sweeping black gown with an oddly placed corsage.
Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer
(18) Nominee for best original song, songwriter Diane Warren shows her jeweled grand-piano-shaped evening bag.
Doug Mills/Associated Press