Other fashion flashes: purple, red and white were the top color choices; metallic beading drew eyes to all the right places; and soft, sexy, piled-high hairdos helped actresses keep their cool on an unusually hot night.
The cast of "Grey's Anatomy" wore just about every trend and are sure to garner a lot of buzz. Katherine Heigl wore a beaded glamour gown in a nude color with an open neck and keyhole back by Escada, and Ellen Pompeo chose a strapless bustier-style gown in purple designed by John Galliano for Christian Dior.
Sandra Oh's asymmetrical light purple gown by Vera Wang had a soft cascade of ruffles around the V neck that the actress offset with chunky, funky necklaces.
"I look like a czarina — the last of the Romanoffs with a little Run-DMC," Oh said on the red carpet.
Chandra Wilson wore a red gown by Bradley Bayou with side slits. She said she appreciated the "air vents."
There were bona fide fashion supermodels outside the Shrine Auditorium as Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks represented their reality shows. Banks' Georges Chakra gown was valued at $50,000, and she wore $3.5 million in Chopard jewelry to complement it. She went to Paris for the fitting of the glamorous black lace, one-shoulder gown with a deep V cutout that was entirely handmade. "A dress is a dress is a dress. It's all about how it's made," Banks said.
Klum also was in a one-shoulder dress. Hers was a draped red gown by Michael Kors that clung to her pregnant belly. The Victoria's Secret model wore makeup from the company's Very Sexy Makeup Collection that isn't yet available to the public.
Klum's husband, Seal, was in the uniform of most men on the red carpet — a black suit, white shirt and regular tie. His was particularly skinny.
Jeremy Piven broke from that uniform, though, wearing his tuxedo with an ascot.
Jane Kaczmarek had a draped red dress that was similar to Klum's and Kaczmarek's husband, Bradley Whitford, wore a complementary red tie.
"It's my homage to the red carpet," Kaczmarek said.
Leah Rimini also did the one-shoulder thing, but her Versace gown was purple and had subtle sparkles. Evangeline Lilly's Versace dress was purple with all-over, crisscross pleats.
Jaime Pressly had on a custom-made Badgley Mischka beaded amethyst chantilly lace fishtail gown that she accessorized with 19th-century diamond jewelry by Fred Leighton.
Cheryl Hines selected a purple shantung gown by Chakra with a high neck and sheer back dotted with jeweled embroidery. "I heard it's aubergine. Somebody just called it purple, so I don't know. It's pretty special in the back."
Of the few threads holding it up, she said, "We're hoping for the best tonight."
The opposite of Hines' gown was Virginia Madsen's. Her black lace gown by Kevan Hall showed a lot of cleavage with its plunging neckline but the rest of the dress was demure and almost sweet.
Morgan Fairchild and Jean Smart also both showed off ample cleavage in their old-Hollywood gowns. Fairchild wore long black gloves to complete her look.
Kyra Sedgwick said she was going for a Golden Age style. She wore a dove gray strapless organza gown by Giorgio Armani Prive with raw edge details. "I thought it was beautiful and I feel really comfortable in it. I can actually breathe."
Julia Louis-Dreyfus' gown had sparkly black sequin straps.
Kim Raver wore a plunging V-neck halter gown with a jeweled waistband in pleated chiffon by Pamella Roland. Roland also dressed Alfre Woodard, who chose a brown chiffon halter gown with ruched detail.
Mariska Hargitay showed off her post-baby figure in a formfitting Carolina Herrera black lace gown with embroidered flowers down the middle. (Hargitay's son is 8 weeks old.)
Megan Mullally wore an otherwise conservative blue long-sleeve gown by Badgley Mischka but it had a deep V neck that went to a waistband adorned with a jewel. Debra Messing wore a strapless gown with tiers of delicate white fabric.
Allison Janney's red tiered gown by Elie Saab was reminiscent of a 1920s flapper, and she completed the look with strands of platinum and diamonds by Neil Lane.
On a red carpet where stars mainly played it safe, Portia de Rossi took a slight risk — that paid off — with a slate gray gown by Zac Posen with rosettes around the open neck, cutouts on the bodice and an open back.
She was pleased with the outcome. "I love the way he uses fabric," she said.
Jennifer Love Hewitt said she was trying to break out of her usual award show look with a full-length beaded metallic gown by Collette Dinnigan. "I wanted to do something different because I usually do something short and 1950s."
Other risk takers? Barry Manilow in a white suit and black shirt and Simon Cowell, doing his best Tom Ford imitation, in sunglasses and an unbuttoned white shirt showing off his chest hair.