So many elegant Oscar gowns. Strapless at the top, fitted through the torso, flared at the hem. In black or white or muted metallic shades.

So much elegance. So much understatement. So much good taste. So boring.

Whatever happened to Oscar fashion that titillated and scandalized? To inelegance and over-the-top bad taste? To Cher in a barely-beaded bodysuit? To Bjork in swan feathers?

About the only outfit we’re tut-tutting over this year-or should we say butt-butting? – is Melanie Griffith’s backless number from Versace. Now we know how low you can go before declaring a wardrobe malfunction.

Best-actress winner Hilary Swank, pictured at left, also bared her back, showing off her “Million Dollar” muscle tone. From the front, though, her navy Guy Laroche dress was a picture of propriety, with a high neckline, long sleeves and a beautifully draped body.

Amid the sea of elegant gowns, a few stood out because they also were unusual. Especially stylish were the gowns of the five best supporting-actress nominees.

Winner Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator”) was fresh and pretty in a one-shoulder Valentino gown of primrose-yellow with a jewel-pin accent and burgundy sash at the waist. Natalie Portman (“Closer”) was regal in a Grecian goddess gown of pleated brown fabric with a cluster of pearls under the bust.

Laura Linney (“Kinsey”) was lovely in a silvery, strapless gown with diagonal seaming and a cascade of ragged ruffles at the hemline by J. Mendel. Virginia Madsen (“Sideways”) wore a midnight-blue gown with a bustier bodice by Versace Couture – and a monster pair of chandelier earrings. And Sophie Okonedo (“Hotel Rwanda”) looked as pretty as a prom queen in a full-skirted, strapless white dress.

Not surprisingly, the best-actress nominees were among the most elegant. Annette Bening (“Being Julia”) was a class act in a sleek, off-the-shoulder gown with long sleeves and a fishtail hemline – though her raggedy hairstyle didn’t quite match the graceful gown.

Kate Winslet (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) was gorgeous in a dress of Agean blue with plunging neckline, ruched bodice and softly draped skirt from Badgley Mischka. Catalina Sandino Moreno (“Maria Full of Grace”) chose a white, empire-style gown with a daringly low front and back. Like many gowns, it also sported a long train and embroidered, beaded trim.

Imelda Staunton, in a saucy teal gown with three-quarter sleeves and an asymmetrical hemline, couldn’t have looked more different than the frowsy charwoman she played in “Vera Drake.”

Others among the best-dressed were the usual suspects: Halle Berry in a single-strap Versace gown in three shades and textures of silver. Charlize Theron in a froth of pale-blue Dior ruffles. Beyonce, looking all grown up, in a gorgeous black, strapless diva gown that was vintage Versace. And Scarlett Johansson in one of the evening’s most avant-garde outfits, a slim, black dress with a crisp, asymmetrical neckline by Roland Mouret.

Renee Zellweger (in Carolina Herrera), Sandra Oh (in Michael Kors) and Emmy Rossum (in Ralph Lauren) were among the few celebs in red. Most wore subdued shades of beige, taupe, nude, old gold and pewter – surprising choices in a season when vivid colors are making headlines. But the restrained palette suited the elegance of the designs.

Oprah Winfrey looked wonderful in a pale gold Vera Wang design, her hair all tousled curls. In fact, loose curls and cascading waves were the look of the evening. And makeup, for the most part, was light and natural.

Many of the men – including best-actor winner Jamie Foxx – opted for regular neckties with their tuxedos. It’s a modern look, but it doesn’t pack the panache of a hand-tied bow tie, such as the one best-director winner Clint Eastwood (“Million Dollar Baby”) was wearing.

Louis Gossett Jr. was dashing in a white, shadow-stripe tux with a black shirt. Spike Lee and Usher also chose white jackets. Prince teamed pale trousers with a navy jacket. Big mistake.

Black-on-black was the choice of several big names, including Morgan Freeman, the supporting-actor winner. Johnny Depp was dapper, if somewhat unconventional, in a navy tux with black shawl collar, dangling wallet chain and spectator shoes.

While most of the women dazzled in diamonds, no one did bling brighter than Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. His tux, from his own Sean John line, was the male equivalent of elegant but unusual. In classic black, the collar, sides and sleeves were edged in white.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.