The singer-actress, nominated for best original song for I've Seen It All from her movie Dancer in the Dark, arrived at Sunday's Academy Awards in a white, feathered, knee-length dress tailored to look like a swan. It even included a swan's neck and head that she draped around her own neck.
Outside the Shrine Auditorium, she lifted up her dress and out dropped an egg.
"It was a panic. She provided the kook factor," said Merle Ginsberg, Women's Wear Daily's entertainment editor. "Nobody dressed badly, so you've got to have some fun."
Last year, I thought she looked weird, " said Cindy Weber Cleary, fashion editor for InStyle magazine, on the CBS Early Show.
"She outdid herself with that swan head and the feathers. When she was standing there singing in that outfit, it was laughable."
According to Cleary, there were other fashion faux pas on Oscar night. Kate Hudson's fringed dress and curls were too busy, overwhelming her face; Juliette Binoche's outfit, with feather hat, boots, and huge loops of necklaces and boots, was overstyled.
"Boots with an evening dress; she looked ridiculous," the editor said.
Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Lopez provided the glamour, all in gowns recalling old-style Hollywood.
"We definitely saw a reaffirmation of Hollywood with vintage looks," said Tom Julian, fashion commentator for Oscar.com.
Roberts, the best actress winner for Erin Brockovich, opted for vintage Valentino a black-and-white velvet column dress with white straps forming a "Y" down the front. She matched boyfriend Benjamin Bratt, who wore a black tux and white-on-white tie and shirt.
The dress, said Cleary, was "perfect for someone accepting an award."
For overall movie star glamour, Cleary's vote goes to Catherine Zeta-Jones: " She was wearing Versace black, fishtailed, curvy dress, diamond necklace, ear rings, hair and make-up, the total package was ravishing."
Marcia Gay Harden, who won supporting actress honors for Pollock, livened up the Oscar fashion parade in a strapless, burgundy dress with matching wrap by Randolph Duke.
"I've always been inspired by the beautiful old-world movie stars," said Harden, who carried a handmade red beaded clutch. "I just wanted to feel and look like a movie star."
Cleary said of Harden: " Her hair was glamorous in a '40s way. I was very happy for her when she won the award. She looked like a million bucks"
Lopez, known for her skimpy awards show outfits, raised eyebrows once again with a one-shoulder, two-tone Chanel gown with a gray, see-through top.
"I always choose at the last minute, which is bad. This is what I feel good in at the time," said Lopez.
Cleary thought Lopez carried it off: "The waterfall diamond earrings, her hair sliked back, that's Chanel, total glamour. The skirt is a little bit wide and slightly overwhelming, but I thought she carried it off."
Joan Allen, nominated for best actress for "The Contender," wore a sequined coral halter gown by Michael Kors.
"When the dress came up, it was a strong contender," she quipped, noting she has a similar-colored sweater set that people always tell her looks great on her.
Cleary said Allen "looked fantastic. It was amazing. She looked so sexy."
Being seen in the "right" gown or tux draws more than approval from the fans. It can be worth millions in free publicity for a designer and a star whose outfit is seen, again and again, worldwide.
The pre-show fashion show didn't stop at just dresses, however.
"We saw more about purses, shoes and necklaces than just about the gowns," said Julian.
Zeta-Jones accessorized her black skirt and black-beaded bodice with a diamond necklace featuring a teardrop pale blue jewel and matching teardrop earrings.
Julie Moran of Entertainment Tonight had the evening's best purse. She toted a rhinestone-studded movie camera.
Laura Linney, nominated for best actress, chose a tomato-red gown with a high neckline. Like Roberts and Zeta-Jones, she wore her hair in an elegant upswept style.
Russell Crowe, who won the best-actor Oscar, wore a knee-length Edwardian tuxedo jacket as did Samuel L. Jackson. Crowe's grandfather's medal adorned his Armani lapel.
Cleary said "they looked like preachers, I think. I like to see a man in a more classic tux."
Under his black pinstriped Armani duster, Jackson wore a cream, vertically ruffled silk satin shirt with no tie. Harris wore a similar shirt in blue.
Throwing out tradition altogether was Joaquin Phoenix, nominated for best supporting actor for Gladiator. With his white shirt untucked and his hair uncombed, he seemed to have a lock on the most-rumpled award.
Inside the Shrine Auditorium, Phoenix donned an Armani jacket but left his hair and tie askew.
But Cleary reserved her worst criticism for actor Tom Cruise, who wore a sports jacket with an open-necked shirt.
"He was so casually dressed, I was shocked, to present the big award of the evening," the fashion editor said. He looked way underdressed. I thought it was disrespectful."