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Understated Chic at the 63rd Golden Globes (Fashion Wire Daily)

Fashion Wire Daily – Los Angeles – This year’s Golden Globes marked the triumph of a certain kind of underdog. With wins by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Felicity Huffman, Hugh Laurie, Mary Louise Parker and 53-year-old TV actress S. Epatha Merkerson (who won for her first lead ever in a film, “Lackawanna Blues”), it was less a pageant of pheasantry than a night for Acting with a capital “A.” As good old-fashioned thespian skills were honored, so was a brand of unimpeachable chic, which doesn’t aim to bust the boundaries of established red-carpet etiquette but instead upholds the proverbial golden standards.

The overall message? Style mattered less than substance this year. Hollywood divas played it safe in streamlined Grecian silhouettes in soft neutrals – beige, cream, and blond, classy satins and lots of black and white lace. Thank God for Scarlett Johansson – a woman evidently born to wear red – who played up her ruby satin gown with a vampy décolletage, red satin Jimmy Choos and a swath of crimson lipstick. One can safely say that she was the reddest thing there ever was on a red carpet! “Memoirs of a Geisha”‘s Ziyi Zhang took a risk too, in a canary yellow stunner with a tight-fitting bodice and trailing layers of tulle that literally stopped the traffic behind her. Well done!

Geena Davis, crowned the best drama series actress for her lead turn in the ABC show “Commander in Chief,” was positively presidential in a crimson taffeta ball gown. She looked sexy and confident, owning up to her age just like her bejeweled décolletage owned up to her bounteous bosom. She cracked wise from the podium and told a playful story about a little girl who tugged at her skirt and told her, “because of you, I can dream of being president one day.” (Then admitted it was a fabrication, “but it could have happened!”)

Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” won big – four awards, including one for the best dramatic film of the year – and his “Brokeback” gals were winners too, at least on the red carpet. Michelle Williams was a sensation in her Givenchy haute couture number – a strapless purple ball gown shot with violet sequins and crystal beads, with a tiered skirt that layered pleated silk tulle, gauze and crêpe. It must feel like sweet revenge for Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci, whose latest collection was largely derided by the fashion establishment for its weird, apocalyptic elegance. Anne Hathaway looked demure and sweet in an indigo Sabrina dress by Marc Jacobs with a poufy tulle skirt scattered with little silver stars and accessorized with silver lace-up Jimmy Choos.

Purple is the it color for spring, and it was spotted at the Globes too – from Williams’ aforementioned frock to Jamie Fox’s deep purple shirt, and the purple blossom discreetly attached to the lapel of Heath Ledger’s tuxedo. (We have no idea who Vanessa Minnillo is, but her flowing violet silk dress looked fabulous.)

Any survey of last night’s best-looking gents must list Terrence Howard at the top. He wore a black Dolce & Gabbana suit, but what really made the look was the fabric flower that a friend attached to his lapel at the last minute. We’ve said it here before, and we’ll say it again: this man gives Cary Grant and Denzel Washington a run for their money every time he sets foot on a red carpet.

Winners George Clooney (who got a supporting-actor Globe for his role in “Syriana”) and Hugh Laurie (best drama series actor for the TV show House) both wore classic tuxedos, with their very own huge grins as the only adornment. Philip Seymour Hoffman, in rumpled tuxedo pants, took home the best drama actor award. The classic tux looked manly and just so on Anthony Hopkins (honoree of the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award), roguish on Russell Crowe, and modestly beautiful on the great Ang Lee, who ‘fessed up to butterflies in his stomach on the red carpet, but took home the best motion picture director prize.

Joaquin Phoenix and Jonathan Rhys Meyers rocked an effortless, off-the-cuff elegance in slim-cut modish black suits and skinny black ties as they stepped up to the podium to accept awards for best motion picture performance, and respectively, best mini-series performance.

But more younger gents than ever seemed to opt for a black shirt/black modish suit combo in lieu of the classic tux. “Lost”‘s Harold Perrineau donned an Ozwald Boateng suit with a coral and yellow shirt – a great look that he rightfully likened to “a Matisse painting.” And Adrien Brody looked superbly louche in a Hugh Hefner tux and black scarf casually wrapped around the neck in lieu of bow tie.

Understated as it was by Hollywood standards, the colorful affair dazzled “The Constant Gardner”‘s Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles. He likened himself to “an anthropologist from a foreign land” who parachuted in to take a look “at this big circus.” If we’re talking circus though, his leading lady Rachel Weisz, who won a supporting-actress prize for the film, was a ring leader in a Grecian silhouette in burnt-gold taffeta number that framed her understated beauty. Grecian chic was big last night – spotted on Jason Lee’s artist wife Beth Riesgraf, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marcia Cross, Felicity Huffman and Sandra Oh, to name but a few.

Mom-to-be Paltrow was a vision of Boticellian charm, in a cream flowing outfit with an empire waist. Delicate silk petals encircled her neck and perfectly complemented her Jane Austen hairdo. Keira Knightley also revisited her recent turn in “Pride & Prejudice” with a virginal dress cinched with a lovely bow and an updo.

But divas otherwise known to dazzle underwhelmed. Charlize Theron went for a blah black lace cocktail dress, Renée Zellweger for a mousy little black outfit. Kate Beckinsale drowned in dowdy white lace and Emmy Rossum, a classic beauty known for favoring Ralph Lauren on the red carpet, went for a frou-frou concoction in drab beige – the kind of hue that helps one blend into the wallpaper. (A multitude of ruffles run ariot did not alleviate the condition.)

You can always count on those “Desperate Housewives” to stand out in an assembly, and stand out they did last night too. Marcia Cross in coral, Eva Longoria in red, Teri Hatcher in a gilded bronze gown with a plisé mermaid bottom, and Nicollette Sheridan in saucy navy, waving at the press from the red carpet like the Queen Mother saluting her subjects from the carriage. But it was Felicity Huffman who reigned – she won for her turn in the film “Transamerica” and looked effortlessly beautiful in a white Grecian stunner with sparkly straps.

Alanis Morissette told us that she was wearing a dress made by a friend (always a nice gesture), but she forgot to put on a bra and the beige/black color combo was a passion killer. Speaking of bras – Drew Barrymore provided for the only X-rated moment of the ceremony, when her slinky green jersey dress clinging in all the wrong places offered a scandalous contour of her chest.

And then there were, of course, those who can never do wrong: the great Catherine Deneuve in a grand black Lanvin, Sarah Jessica Parker in a ruffled black column dress from Rochas, Kyra Sedgwick in a chestnut-brown Cinderella gown in splendid taffeta and long earrings with streaming strands of gold dangling beautifully over her collar bones. She and husband Kevin Bacon – in a modish combo of black ruffled shirt, bow-tie and black velvet blazer – were the best-looking couple on the red carpet. Emily Mortimer struck the perfect pixie chic note in a vintage Chanel with a black-silk train, totting around a shiny black globe tied to a satin ribbon for a purse. She looked elegant and eccentric, like a British bird should. Her Stateside counterpart in gamine chic was Natalie Portman, in a vintage black-lace bustier dress, also from Chanel, and Jean Seberg haircut.

Honorable mentions go to the cool rebels – those who can’t bother to be anything but themselves, even on a night like this. Johnny Depp with just-born hatchling hair, in a red shirt and with a red kerchief peeking from his front pocket. Director Robert Rodriguez, whose signature cowboy hat could easily be spotted gliding along the sea of bodies on the red carpet. Comedian Larry David, chewing gum and looking visibly annoyed by the proceedings. Emma Thompson, in full-blown blonde sprite mode this year, in a simple white satin and a huge white fox marabou that she kept trying to smother Colin Firth with. And of course, the indomitable Mariah Carey, on whom a too-tight Chanel couture silk gown looked like a $250 purchase from a Melrose Avenue boutique.

Reese Witherspoon wears delightful costumes in “Walk the Line,” thanks to costumer and star stylist Arianne Phillips, but last night she opted for a ’50s-inspired vintage Chanel with a champagne-hued petticoat and golden paillettes strewn all over her bodice. She looked like a butterball in it, but it must have been a lucky dress anyway, because she took home a best motion picture performance prize. When you’ve got Witherspoon’s acting chops and Southern belle charm – you’re a winner any day, baby!

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