Stars score fashion points with classic couture

The 2011 Oscars red carpet featured more fashion hits than misses, if only because so many stars opted to play it safe, sartorially speaking. Dresses were flattering and classic, hair and make-up were sleek and simple, and in an effort to stay off the feared "worst dressed" lists, very few actors took a fashion gamble. Even Helena Bonham Carter - who can usually be relied upon for a wacky ensemble - toed the line in a black dress she said she picked to "celebrate film instead of fash

"The stars know they are being judged on what they wear," says fashion stylist Lindsay Campbell. "A classic look lasts a lifetime while a high trend fashion piece will go down in history as a bad choice."

With that in mind, a pregnant Natalie Portman wore a simple, flowing Rodarte dress in a deep purple, disappointing fashion fans who were hoping for something more adventurous from her.

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Portman's Black Swan co-star, Mila Kunis, was one of the fashion favourites on the night in a lacy, lilac Elie Saab gown, while presenter Cate Blanchett wowed in an unusual Givenchy haute couture dress with neon embellishment, which earned her serious points among fashion critics.

A number of stars - including Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock and the show's presenter Anne Hathaway - opted to match the carpet in striking red gowns, while shimmering pale neutrals were a strong trend for the second year in a row.

• The Oscars in pictures

Hilary Swank went for sequins and ostrich feathers on her Gucci gown while Halle Berry wore frothy Marchesa, Annette Bening donned a slinky, sparkling number by Naeem Khan, and 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld glowed in a ballerina-style dress she had helped to design.

"Fashion at the Oscars is a monster in itself," says Tessa Hartmann, the founder of the Scottish Fashion Awards. "So many careers feed off of that one platform; a look can make or break careers."