"The necklaces, in some ways, overshadowed the gowns," said fashion insider Hal Rubenstein.
Other observers agreed (Cate Blanchett wore chunky turquoise), but Sunday night's looks were generally considered classic Academy Awards.
They weren't overtly outrageous or revealing, with a show of high necks, long sleeves and allure over skin-baring cutouts, with the usual exemption for Jennifer Lopez. She was in a chest-revealing pale fawn-colored princess gown.
Overall, said Yahoo Style editor in chief Joe Zee, "There were no train wrecks. There was no Helena Bonham Carter moment."
Eric Wilson, fashion news director for InStyle magazine, welcomed a turn away from strapless. And he was most impressed by a few of the heavily embellished dresses that appeared more beads and sequins than fabric.
"They almost looked moulded. And the whole neckline situation has been great in terms of the variety," he said.
A few of the night's fashion moments:
She wore a body-hugging Versace in emerald, her short hair shaved at the sides. Count her among the wearer of statement necklaces, but this one in a good way, said Rubenstein, a longtime fashion critic. Emeralds dripped off the piece, which fit her like a collar and came to a long point in the shade of her body-hugging sleeveless dress that had a deep V.
"That was an incredibly feminine necklace," he added. "She was the sexiest. There was an unexpected balance to all of it that really worked terrifically."
Her gloves were long, red and winged, her dress a textured white — brighter than her greyish hair done in a low ponytail. The full gown had wide armholes that offered a peek of her side tattoos. There were the usual haters, but Rubenstein wasn't one of them.
"Even with the Playtex gloves, it still is an amazing Alaia," he said. "I think that's an incredible dress."
Zee wasn't a hater.
"I liked Gaga. In a way it's a little more restrained than what she's done," he said. "It's not comical but it still had personality."
The It fashion girl wore a custom Calvin Klein Collection pearl-and-ivory beaded dress by Francisco Costa, the brand's creative director for women. And by beads, we mean more than 6,000 of them in various sizes, culminating in a strappy back.
"Francisco is the ultimate minimalist," Rubenstein said. "Well, can you get any more maximal than 6,000 pearls in a dress? It's beautiful. Other than the earrings there was no other jewelry. I really loved it. Lupita was the most splendiferous."
Wilson called the encrusted look "spectacular" and Joyann King, editor of HarpersBazaar.com, exclaimed: "My jaw dropped. It was absolutely stunning."
She went with white like Nyong'o and several others. Hers was silk by Dior Haute Couture in an off-white and embroidered in a circular design. It had a small train and billowed at the back in an ode to Old Hollywood.
"The dress is incredible but only when you see it from the back," Rubenstein said. "It's probably the most daring piece of fashion of the night. The red carpet is not the runway. We look for glamour, not innovation. But this was a dress that really is about fashion, with the Balenciaga-like back. It truly is a 'fashion' dress, but there's something so natural about Dior and Cotillard."
Cotillard, a Dior brand ambassador, was the perfect example of something new on the Oscars fashion scene, Wilson said.
"From the front it looks like a classic dress but once she turned around you saw that amazing draped Watteau back. It's an 18th-century style named after the painter," he explained.
The painter being Jean-Antoine Watteau and the dress a creation of Raf Simons.
She wore Chanel couture, strapless and white with pops of colour in applique at the chest, below the waist and at the hem. Karl Lagerfeld designed it himself with 80,000 small sequins. With her red hair back and minimal jewelry, the dress was allowed to sing.
"It's an extraordinary piece of haute couture," Rubenstein said. "It was this explosion of iridescent sequins. She's the one person not wearing a statement necklace. She was the most elegant."
Wilson added, "There was barely any fabric there. It was almost entirely embellished. It's spectacular to see something like that on the red carpet."
King said: "She really is the winner of the entire awards season."
Sure, there was a big necklace. A Van Cleef & Arpels with diamonds and sapphires set in 18-karat gold, to be exact. But her black Saint Laurent Paris was smoking hot against her straight blonde bob and bright red lip. The front was low and draped and the long sleeves sheer.
"She was probably the sleekest and most modern," Rubenstein said.
While not his favourite, Wilson said "it was a way to show off the body without being revealing."
King called it "gothic glamour."
She wore embellished Armani Prive with a mosaic look that had a broken shell effect. The front had a bib and the back a black sequined bra-like bandeaux.
"It's going to be one of the more divisive looks of the night because from afar she looks like a brick wall but when you look at it up close it's really incredible," Wilson said.
The "Fifty Shades of Grey" co-star also wore Saint Laurent, a one-shoulder number in red with a touch of chunky embellishment.
"She was really sultry. I thought it was maybe a little play on the red room in 'Fifty Shades,'" King said.
Zee also loved Johnson, whose messy ponytail was a bit Anastasia Steele.
"There was something fun and youthful and fresh about her," Zee said. "In the past we've had these young girls in their 20s dressing like they're in their 40s."
Stone has been pushing the envelope on red carpets this season, showing up once in pants. This time, the celery green colour of her custom Elie Saab earned raves, though Rubenstein wasn't all that impressed.
The heavily beaded, high-slit gown had long embellished sheer sleeves and popped against her pale skin and red hair. It was high in the front and plunged in the back.
"And she dyed her shoes to match," Zee said. "Not everybody could carry off the colour, but she did."Suggest a correction