Actresses skipped necklaces and posed on the Kodak Theatre's red carpet on their way into the 79th annual Oscar ceremony last night in blush-colored and jewel-toned Grecian-styled and strapless gowns.

This is not surprising, as these looks dominated this year's red-carpet season. But last night's bare necks drew even more attention to designer detail, which was a combination of sexy, off-the-shoulder tops, basket-weave bodices, and full skirts fashioned from layers of ruffles and tulle.

Our favorite dress of the night was a nicely executed combination of most of these trends: a dusty-rose Donatella Versace strapless gown worn by best-actress nominee Penelope Cruz. The bodice was a tightly woven basket weave that led into layers and layers of flowing tulle. By no means are we a fan of tulle, but for some reason this dress spoke directly to our fashion sense.

Supporting-actress winner Jennifer Hudson switched up her style a bit with the chocolate-brown Oscar de la Renta. Although we weren't too crazy about the quilted aluminum-foil-style qualities of the pointed collar on Hudson's cropped jacket, the dress was extra classy and her to-the-side sweep of curls added to the drama.

But silver didn't have to remind us of foil, as actress Rachel Weisz's Vera Wang glittered with style, especially with the jeweled pendant pinned to the right bodice of her strapless gown. (We wonder if it came with the dress.)

Surprisingly, mint green was a pretty strong color - although on the screen it looked like white. Beyoncé was all batting-eyelashes in her deep-side-slit Giorgio Armani Prive. The one-shoulder strap floret detailing was somewhat interesting. Kate Winslet's soft-green, one-shouldered Valentino was quite pretty.

We were very impressed with Helen Mirren - and her British flag - who managed to pull off a very deep-cut Christian Lacroix without being too revealing. The silver dress skimmed her curves.

On the other hand, Meryl Streep surprised us in a navy blue coat dress that she paired with chunky orange jewelry. After all, this is the Oscars and she was the star of the year's biggest fashion movie: The Devil Wears Prada. There just should have been more thought - not to mention that we suspect Streep was wearing hair extensions.

Speaking of Prada, the looks the other stars of that movie chose also left a lot to be desired. Anne Hathaway's black-bowed Valentino was a dreadful choice and Emily Blunt's navy blue strapless, slightly glittery Calvin Klein was just a smidgen better.

Jada Pinkett Smith's heavily corsetted mustard-yellow Carolina Herrera was too severe. We do like her in strapless, but everything she's been wearing has been so stiff, and the major fishtailing and boned corset just didn't work.

Continuing the Grammy and Golden Globe steam, white continued to be a strong color this season. Although Jennifer Lopez isn't in the spotlight this year, her white and silver empire-waist dress by L.A.-based designer Marchesa got her notice.

We still aren't too crazy about Cameron Diaz's brown hair, but the white capelike Valentino she wore redeemed a bit of her classic fashion reputation after she pulled a What was she thinking? in that white-tiered mess she wore to the Golden Globes.

It was nice to see designers work with colors. Portia de Rossi worked a one-shouldered midnight-blue gown early in the evening.

Jessica Biel looked royal in a magenta Oscar de la Renta gown cinched with a black-velvet tie. Gwyneth Paltrow's salmon, cap-sleeved Zac Posen featured beautiful tucks, and songstress Celine Dion, in vintage James Galanos from Lilly et Cie, couldn't have picked a nicer green shade to highlight her bronzed complexion.

It was interesting that the women performing distinguished themselves in red, from Ellen DeGeneres, who opened the show in a wine pantsuit, to Hudson, Beyonce and Anika Noni Rose (whose long-sleeved metallic gown by Naeem Kahn rates a fashion nod), who performed in scarlet gowns.

But Nicole Kidman's red Balenciaga made her look like a big Christmas present. Too much volume for such a sleek night.

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Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704. To read her latest columns, log on to http://go.philly.com/elizabethwellington.