Winslet Deemed Fashion Winner, Too

Kate Winslet, nominated for best actress for "The Reader," arrives for the 81st Academy Awards Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles.
AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
"The set was gorgeous, the show was gorgeous, and people looked sensational, they really did!"

That, in a nutshell, sums up InStyle magazine Fashion Director Hal Rubenstein's take on the fashions on Oscar night.

"Everybody was worried, 'Oh, the recession," Rubenstein pointed out to Early Show co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez. "Nobody wants to look at anybody in a bunch of black pantsuits. This was a night, the city wanted to celebrate itself, Oscar wanted to celebrate itself and the stars showed up to do so."

Topping his list -- Kate Winslet, who took home the best actress hardware for "The Reader."

In a word? "Sensational!" Rubenstein exclaimed. "A dress made just for her. ... The whole back, cape of the dress was completely hand-beaded. Also, her hair was done sort of Grace Kelly-like. She really looked beautiful."

Another stellar scorer in Rubenstein's book? Meryl Streep: "I think it's the best (she's) looked her entire life, certainly in public. Very often, she's said the clothes don't matter. But this time, you know, if you've received 15 nominations, you're the Grand Dame of the evening, and it showed."

Rubenstein also singled out Natalie Portman for special praise, saying she looked beautiful.

Photos: Oscars Red Carpet
The night also saw a shift in Oscar fashion trends, Rubenstein noted: "It used to be Oscar's about glitz, glitz, sparkle, sparkle, beads. And this time, it's so much about the detail in the dresses, the incredible pleating in Marisa Tomei's gown. Anne Hathaway had huge pailettes that basically cascaded down to the bottom of the dress.

On Oscar night, it wasn't the devil in the detail, according to Rubenstein. Anything but. He admired "the detail work. The technology involved in making gowns thee days is so different from what came before. Except Penelope Cruz's dress, which was extraordinary, was actually 60 years old. That's true vintage, not three years old. That's true vintage."

Overall, Rubenstein says, there were "lots of big dresses and huge trains. Big, statement necklaces. And just really, really elegant dresses with so much detail."

Freida Pinto of "Slumdog Millionaire" had "a really lovely dress," Rubenstein observed. "It's a little more subtle than the other ones for television."

If he had to pick one person who didn't get it right, who would that be?

Rubenstein named two: "Reese Witherspoon's dress looked a little odd, and Sarah Jessica Parker, who loves fashion and always looks so excited -- the dress was maybe just a little bit too big for her."

More on Witherspoon's choice: "I think the dress was unbalanced. The blue and the black. I think the straps really don't flatter her. And it just -- for a lovely girl, I don't think that one worked."