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c.2012 Houston Chronicle

Giuliana Rancic, host of E! News' pre-awards red-carpet report, welcomed viewers to an event recognizing "the world of film, television and alcohol." True: the official kickoff to the awards season is nothing if not a frothy cocktail of high-octane fashion and fizzy fun.

Top shelf: The quality, triple-filtered stuff for high rollers provides the best-of-the-best buzz. Julianne Moore, who won for "Game Change," was a knockout in a black, long-sleeved gown from Tom Ford that featured white insets. Its geometric glamour was complemented by Bulgari chandelier earrings. Taylor Swift exhibited style of a much older, much more experienced Hollywood goddess. But she pulled off her deep aubergine Donna Karan Atelier dress with assurance. Featuring a Sabrina neckline, the clinging dress had a deep back plunge and a fishtail finish. Anne Hathaway, who won best supporting actress for "Les Misérables," chose a two-piece floor-length Chanel ensemble. The snow-white beads against magnolia skin proved to be a masterstroke. And that pixie hair and cherries-in-the-snow lipstick? Beautiful.

Highball: A tall, refreshing drink that makes you want another? That was Nicole Richie in her blue beaded long-sleeved Naeem Khan gown. A modern baroque pattern, it fit her perfectly and looked like a long sip of blue curacao. Amanda Seyfried's nude whisper gown from Givenchy featured intricate detail up and down a lace column. Jennifer Lawrence, a winner for "Silver Linings Playbook," was one of the most anticipated looks of the evening. Her lipstick red Dior Haute Couture gown was slightly clumsy at the bust but it made a memorable impression on the red carpet. Calvin Klein Collection dressed "Zero Dark Thirty" star Jessica Chastain in a baby blue halter gown that suggested old school Hollywood glam. Her red hair, done in Veronica Lake-ish tendrils, perfectly offset the soft blue dress.

Neat: Straight-up glamour that needs no mixers, rocks or garnish. That was Claire Danes of "Homeland" who scored in a red Versace halter gown. Simple, uncomplicated; and extra points for soft hair and smoky eyes. Naomi Watts, a nominee for "The Impossible," scored in a long-sleeved, garnet-color gown by Zac Posen. The dramatic cutout in the back led down to a knockout train.

Cordials: Like a welcoming liqueur that starts the evening off, some of the fashions were perfectly pleasant tickles but acted more as a prelude to more serious stuff. Hayden Panettiere of "Nashville" sported a pink nude Roberto Cavalli fishtail gown. Also on a fishtail expedition was Amy Adams, nominated for "The Master," in a sleeveless Marchesa that concluded with a flirty fan-out.

Modern mixology: The red carpet loves it when original thinking and craftsmanship collide. Enter Lucy Liu. Her rose-flocked light blue ball gown from Carolina Herrera stood out for its fairy-tale romanticism as opposed to the overt sexuality of some of typical red-carpet gowns. Olivia Munn of "The Newsroom" is sure to divide fashionistas with her choice of a Giorgio Armani gown that featured turquoise beads at the top and a simple column of black at the bottom.

Skinny-girl sippers: Half the calories, yes, but we still can get a buzz on looks like Katharine McPhee's sexy black plunge gown from Olivier Theysken's Theory. Marion Cotillard, a nominee for "Rust and Bone," might split fashion votes for her red cocktail dress by Raf Simons for Christian Dior. Strange, daring and we wanted to see more of it. Megan Fox showed some serious curves in a blush Dolce & Gabbana strapless gown of nude lace.

Hurricanes: Anyone who has been to the Big Easy knows the potent and deadly nature of this overwhelming, indiscriminate mix of spirits. A few sips of Lena Dunham's Zac Posen gown and we felt woozy: The espresso-colored panel dress pinched her bust and the off-the-shoulder straps framed her torso awkwardly. OK, she's just a kid, but someone should have told Ariel Winter of "Modern Family" that her paintball Valentino cocktail dress was all wrong for the red carpet. The '60s-style separates - skirt and top in floral appliqué - didn't work for Sienna Miller. The Erdem ensemble skewed too old and stiff for the young, pretty "The Girl" star.

Moonshine: White lightening may strike hot, but it is essentially unrefined, homemade hooch. Julianne Hough's white ball gown by Monique Lhuillier was shot through with gold beads. It looked like a mound of whipped White Mountain frosting sprinkled with gold tinsel. Zoey Deschanel loves that princess look but her red Oscar de la Renta dress looked more prom than palace. Rachel Weisz's Louis Vuitton dress turned heads for all the wrong reason. The black "cocktail" dress featured see-through polka-dot net above the neckline and below the thighs. A push-me/pull-you dress that doesn't know which direction it was going. Another odd minidress with long nude overlay was the silver embroidered illusion dress by Miu Miu that Kerry Washington chose.

Nightcaps: We'll take one for the road and have sweet dreams thinking of superstar Jody Foster in her cross-strap Giorgio Armani navy sparkler. Jennifer Lopez in Zhair Murad cling gown of nude illusion white lace showed that JLo still has the power to make us gasp a little. And where does Sofia Vergara find those hourglass dresses that look like sequins and beads were glued to her body? No matter - she truly exemplifies the cups-runneth-over excitement of the Globes.

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