Fashion highlights from the Oscars’ red carpet arrivals

The Academy Awards red carpet returned Sunday to provide a break in a troubled world, allowing us to briefly be united over the question of whether Nicole Kidman’s peplum was too big. (It was, but gloriously so.) It felt strangely nostalgic to be watching the arrivals in their pretty gowns and smart suits — like time suddenly went backward a bit, and we could focus on unimportant but delightful things just for a little while.

Among my favorite looks were a trio of red outfits: nominee Kirsten Dunst in a romantic, ruffled strapless gown (vintage Christian Lacroix); Marlee Matlin in a beautifully draped, 1940s-ish dress with long sleeves and a dramatic necklace; and nominee Ariana DeBose, who has forever changed the rule that a corset top, trousers and an enormous cape don’t go together. Maybe that wasn’t a rule, but I’ve never seen this particular combination of garments before — and it was stunning, particularly that cape, which deserved an Oscar of its own.

Also stunning: Lupita Nyong’o, in a metallic gold gown that looked both festive and, with its elbow-length sleeves, appealingly casual. Nominee Olivia Colman in space-age silver pleats. Nominee Aunjanue Ellis in a dramatic ruffled orange gown with a beautifully floaty train. And Jada Pinkett Smith, attending with nominated husband Will, looked like the red carpet’s most beautiful mermaid in a regal green gown with a vast skirt and train that seemed to flow like water.

And then there were the more offbeat choices. Timothée Chalamet, in sequined lacy jacket unbuttoned over a bare chest, looked like a vampire who moonlights (ha!) as a stripper, but not in a bad way. Nominee Kristen Stewart (“Spencer”) turned up in a Chanel tuxedo shorts suit, which I appreciated because it gave me the opportunity to type the words “Chanel tuxedo shorts suit.” Wesley Snipes also went with shorts in a burgundy ensemble with matching tights.

And Zendaya looked stunning in a sparkly silver ball skirt, paired with what looked like an abbreviated white button-down; kind of a nod to Sharon Stone a few decades ago, but with her own daring twist. (I’m assuming there was some double-sided tape involved.) It’s fun to sit at home, in slippers and leggings, judging all of these outfits; appreciating some beautiful frivolity.

Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst attend the 94th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on March 27, 2022, in Los Angeles.