NEW YORK – Jessica Chastain hit the Oscars red carpet in a purple and copper sparkle gown, while the 15-year-old Saniyya Sidney twirled and beamed in a floral-adorned princess look and her “King Richard” castmate Demi Singleton lit up in soft purple Sunday.
Chastain's Gucci ombre gown included a ruffle hem. The color of her hair, in a high ponytail, matched the burnished bodice of her gown perfectly. Nicole Kidman smooched with her husband, Keith Urban, in a subdued blue gray Armani Prive strapless column gown with a waist ruffle and train.
“This dress, they actually made this color,” Kidman told E!. “I was, like, I really want to wear blue. I love the color.”
Nominee Kristen Stewart, her platinum hair swept to one side, posed quickly for cameras in tiny, rock star black shorts from Chanel. The buttons on her white top opened down to her bellybutton. Penelope Cruz in Chanel went for black in a classic silhouette with a bow sparkling at her neck.
“Instead of a parade of the usual suspects wearing variations on the same theme, the red carpet was filled with individualism, personal style and a sense of play,” said fashion director Zoey Washington, who works with a range of luxury brands.
“There was something downright refreshing about seeing how young Hollywood brought a sense of whimsy, from Kristen Stewart’s bespoke Chanel and Zendaya’s bare midriff to Lupita Nyong’o’s kinetic, gold Prada that made her look like a living Oscar,” she said.
Sidney wore a light teal, strapless Armani Prive gown as one of the early arrivals to the 94th Academy Awards. It wasn't her first Oscars. She attended at age 10 for “Fences” and “Hidden Figures.” Singleton portrayed Serena Williams to Sidney's Venus.
As the film industry's glamorous return to the Dolby Theatre unfolded, touches of the real world seeped in.
Jamie Lee Curtis wore a ribbon as a ring in Ukrainian blue, dressed in a midnight blue look by Stella McCartney. Nicholas Britell, nominated for his “Don’t Look Up” score, wore a blue ribbon on one lapel in support of Ukraine, and Diane Warren in an Emerald green tuxedo suit, wore a blue lapel ribbon of her own on behalf of Ukraine refugees. Others donned Ukraine blue ribbons as well.
Presenter Lily James, meanwhile, went with baby pink Versace with a high side slit and Piaget jewels as she posed for selfies with a few fans on the red carpet. Soft pastels like her outfit mixed with metallic looks (Lupita Nyong’o in gold Prada) and black statements (Billie Eilish in a huge tiered custom Gucci gown) in a year still struggling with the pandemic and the horrors of Russia's war in Ukraine.
The reds took it in the trend department.
Fashion icon Tracee Ellis Ross went with Carolina Herrera: a bright tea-length strapless red gown with a daring bodice and a single diamond choker. Rosie Perez wore a classic Hollywood Christian Siriano custom gown in red with a dainty cape. Sonia Yuan of “Drive My Car,” Marlee Matlin of “CODA” and Ariana DeBose of “West Side Story” also chose bright red, DeBose in trousers and a cropped top. Kirsten Dunst got the red memo as well.
Aunjanue Ellis, in a more subtle red, had “Jack's Baby” sewn into her Donatella Versace gown in honor of her mother. Jennifer Garner went classic in a Brandon Maxwell red off-shoulder gown.
As for the men, fashion lover and nominee Kodi Smit-McPhee of “The Power of the Dog” chose a tone-on-tone baby blue suit from Bottega Veneta, an 18-carat Cartier diamond choker over his collared (no-tie) dress shirt. He showed off his Cartier watch, which included cascading diamonds on its face.
“I'm gonna miss that when it's not on my wrist,” he joked.
Erik Maza, executive style director for Town & Country magazine, praised Smit-McPhee's fashion risks.
“He's run away with Timothée Chalamet’s title for best dressed young actor this season,” Maza told The Associated Press.
Side note: Chalamet went with no shirt and a cropped sequin and fringe jacket in black from Louis Vuitton.
Wesley Snipes sported a shorts suit in dark purple. Sebastian Yatra, chosen to perform, wore a pink tuxedo with tails from Moschino, designed by Jeremy Scott. He wore Cartier diamonds. Jason Momoa, a presenter, kept cool with a long braid tied with a small pink scrunchie. He wore a black Henry Poole suit as he towered over the rest of the red carpet.
Naomi Scott was all-the-way covered in an edgy high-neck, deep purple look. Anna Dzieduszycka of the nominated short film “The Dress” wore an emerald green gown with spare feather embellishment. Jada Pinkett Smith also went with green, a deeper shade with a huge ruched train done by Glenn Martens for Gaultier.
Jewels made the statement for some. Vanessa Hudgens, in a black form-hugging sequin gown, had more than 23 carats of Bulgari emeralds around her neck.
“Licorice Pizza” Star Alana Haim and her sisters wore custom Louis Vuitton in a scallop design. Haim posed for a photo with Denis Villeneuve.
“It’s for the Hanukkah card,” Haim said.
Lots of skin, color and jewelry took the night.
“The unofficial theme of the night was more is more, with bold colors, over-the-top glam and in-your-face details dominating the red carpet,” said Irina Grechko, fashion director for the millennial-focused Refinery29.com style site. “It’s nice to see celebrities embrace color after playing it safe in neutrals for far too long.”
There were some standout moments in hair and beauty as well: Regina Hall's “magical switch from long Hollywood waves on the red carpet to a short chic bob on stage,” said Cosmopolitan beauty director Julee Wilson. “I'm obsessed with Lupita's faux loc beehive hairstyle. It's regal with a twist, quite literally.”
Given the news climate, it wasn't surprising that some attendees kept it low key and low wattage in black.
“I'm especially proud of Rita Moreno’s look tonight because she wore her Adrienne Landau hat for the first time for the cover story I wrote for Town & Country’s March issue,” Maza said. “The first Latina to win an Oscar for acting honored her heritage with a dress bearing the name of another Latina OG, Carolina Herrera. Has 90 ever looked this good?"
Maza also lauded James' powdery pink Atelier Versace look and Chastain's Gucci gown “that telegraphed her confidence going into the ceremony.”
Andrea Lavinthal, style and beauty director for People, was a fan of Zendaya's two-piece beaded silver Valentino skirt paired with a white cropped button down that was reminiscent of Sharon Stone's long skirt and white Gap shirt at the 1996 Oscars.
“It’s very young and very modern but also appropriate for the Oscars," she said. “It was a real show stopper. There was a lot of really daring fashion. You don’t usually see this much skin and risks at the Oscars.”
While Zendaya channeled Stone, Zoe Kravitz evoked Audrey Hepburn in a pale pink Saint Laurent Anthony Vaccarello strapless look with a simple bodice half bow, her bangs worn well above her eyebrows as Hepburn did.
An abundance of stars put their décolletage front and center, said Blake Newby, style and beauty editor for Essence.
“Stars embraced plunging necklines more than ever before this year. From Serena and Venus Williams in Gucci and Elie Saab, to Jessica Chastain, also in Gucci, to Niecy Nash in Monsoori, the ladies played with different silhouettes to show off their busts,” she said.
Lavinthal noted the hottest topics on social media when it came to Oscars fashion were Stewart and Chalamet.
“If you're going to do shorts at the Oscars it’s got to be Chanel," she said. “It’s not for everyone but it’s very much her. People are loving both of them or not loving both of them.”
Melissa Rivers, a red carpet veteran and co-creator of the old “Fashion Police” starring her late mother, Joan, wasn't a fan.
“It's the Oscars. It's like going to the house of your grandparents, who are rich and you're not sure if you're in the will yet,” she joked. “It's just, stop. We get who you are, but this is the Oscars.”
Associated Press writers Lindsey Bahr and Brooke Lefferts contributed to this story.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Penelope Cruz’s last name.
For more of AP’s Oscar coverage visit: https://apnews.com/hub/academy-awards