The red carpet at the 51st annual Grammy Awards on Sunday was just the right mix of sparkle, glamour and sophistication. That was the problem.
There was Jennifer Hudson in a fashion-savvy white, silver and black color-blocked cocktail dress; Sheryl Crow in a slinky one-shoulder electric blue gown by Toni Maticevski; and Taylor Swift embracing her sexier side in a plunging V-neck black number by Kaufman Franco.
Sara Bareilles was "total perfection" in her pink dress by Louisa Beccaria with a bright red sash around her waist that matched her lipstick, said Suze Yalof Schwartz, Glamour magazine's fashion editor at large. "I loved that it was tight at the bodice and flounced out. I also loved the pink and red. I feel that color clashing is the way to go. ... It was cool."
Fantasia conveyed a sultry vibe in a silver halter dress, and Jordin Sparks' custom-made black dress by Arizona designer Debra Davenport had a subtle silver floral pattern and a curlicue at the bust.
Katy Perry wore a skintight, blush-pink dress with ruffles down the front.
"So I did have a previous dress ready to go tonight that might have ended up `worst dressed.' But it came in the mail, because I had it custom-made of course because I didn't want anyone wearing that dress, ever and it wasn't right. And it was the day before the Grammys."
Her stylist found the pink frock by Lebanese designer Basil Soda. "I gotta ship the dress back to Lebanon tomorrow. But I feel great. I'm so glad there's always a Plan B."
Duffy also went with a last-minute choice: an Alberta Ferretti black cocktail dress with a jeweled neckline and a sheer asymmetrical pattern at the bust.
Carrie Underwood's gold and crystal slip gown by Zuhair Murad would look great in photos, said Memsor Kamarake, fashion editor at Vibe.
Many stars were picture-perfect, but the fashions generally lacked the free spirit that typically sets the Grammys apart from other shows during the crammed awards season.
"It seems a lot more tame, tamer than usual," Kamarake observed. "We've always loved the Grammys because they're as serious as the Oscars. Today, I was just like, `What are you wearing?'"
The rappers in particular toned down the flash.
"They could have risked being too ostentatious in this time, rubbing it in people's faces when people are sitting around the table figuring how they're going to put dinner on the table," Kamarake said.
However, he thought Young Jeezy, T.I. and Ne-Yo each managed to squeeze a bit of personality into their suits, and Jay-Z looked dapper as the public has come to expect.
Coldplay, Kamarake said, struck the right balance in their colorful-but-not-fla shy jackets that looked like a riff on The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album cover.
Paula Abdul might get people talking with her sunshine yellow gown with overdone gold trim and her beauty-queen hairdo, but certainly there was no moment like J.Lo in her down-to-there V-neck Versace from years back.
Estelle's space-age silver get-up complete with booties was "not of this planet," said Yalof Schwartz, but there was an admirable modernity to it. "It was crazy, off the hook but this is rock 'n' roll."
"You think why would someone wear that, but thank god somebody wore that," she said.
A handful of bona fide trends popped up: fedora hats on Jason Mraz and Ne-Yo, and one-shoulder dresses on Zooey Deschanel and Miley Cyrus, who added some youth to her mature Max Azria gown with stacked diamond bracelets by Mimi So.
There must have been a memo to the men to wear a combination of black, white and gray. Flo Rida and LL Cool J both wore black-and-white polka dot ties.
Barry Manilow said his black velvet Dolce & Gabbana jacket was an easy choice. "I'm on the road, and when you're on the road, you wear all black."
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen contributed to this report.
For a list of winners and complete coverage of the 2009 Grammys, go to MSN.com.