c.2013 New York Times News Service

c.2013 New York Times News Service

In the realm of high fashion, the eye-popping kind that has branded the Oscars as the style-world equivalent of the Super Bowl, the Emmys have long played in the minor leagues. A modest event, the show was mostly disdained by blue-chip designers, who wrote off television’s night of nights as a dreary also-ran.

“TV actresses were not getting the same gowns movie actresses get,” George Kotsiopoulos, a host on the E! network’s red-carpet broadcast, acknowledged in an interview before the show.

Well, times change. And now that television is vying with the big screen for accolades and audiences, the stakes have jumped considerably. Heidi Klum of “Project Runway” had clearly gotten that message. She sauntered down the red carpet at the Nokia Theater in a diva-worthy crimson Atelier Versace gown, its contours so confining, Klum confessed, that she had trouble exiting her car.

Elisabeth Moss dodged similar problems by wearing a wide-skirted black-and-white Andrew Gn princess dress, her DayGlo lips and ice-blond chop signaling that the Emmys had at long last emerged as a spirited contender in the tournament of chic. Moss, a nominee for both “Mad Men” and “Top of the Lake,” was among a handful of fresh-minted stars, standout performers in critical hits and crowd-pleasing shows, to bask in a form of cool by association.

That youthful contingent — headed by the leading lady of “Scandal,” Kerry Washington; Claire Danes of “Homeland”; Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey”; and Kaley Cuoco of “The Big Bang Theory” — was but a sampling of those deemed fit to billboard designers’ most rarefied wares.

Danes proved up to the task, turning out in a Giorgio Armani tulle confection that showed off an ethereal, if slightly skeletal, frame. What Danes lacked in pulchritude, Lena Dunham of “Girls” supplied in abundance, wearing a coral-rose-patterned Prada gown that (somewhat sloppily) showed off her curves.

Even some of the youngest stars, like Zooey Deschanel of “New Girl” and Taylor Schilling of “Orange Is the New Black,” are already commanding prominent space in fashion glossies and ringside seats at runway shows. So it may be just a matter of time before they seal their status as clients even the haughtiest couturier would be pleased to dress.

For sure, Miuccia Prada felt a frisson of gratitude when Dockery swept onto the crimson runner in a stoplight-red gown that Prada had whipped up for the evening.

And Thakoon Panichgul must have been congratulating himself on hearing Schilling declare of her icy white, perilously slashed apronlike gown, “Thakoon made it for me.”

Such lofty designer-celebrity alliances may well have lent some stars the chutzpah to stray from the norm, flaunting more adventurous shapes, audacious prints and searing hues than are customary for an awards show. Their confidence may have stemmed partly from a conviction that they had placed themselves in expert hands, some having bypassed the more conventional choices of their stylists — think sweetheart necklines, trumpet hems and mermaid gowns — in favor of standout dresses custom-designed by prestigious fashion houses.

In keeping with what seems to be a new tradition, Tina Fey of “30 Rock” wore tailor-made Narciso Rodriguez; January Jones of “Mad Men” turned up in a regal-looking, pink lace Givenchy gown; and Zosia Mamet of “Girls” wore a custom-fitted dress by Honor, a watery floral print that contrasted romantically with a sirenlike slash of black at her bust.

She obviously felt bold enough to embark on a candid discussion of a sexual act performed on her in “Girls,” the kind of raw confession that may have been intended to fluster her hosts.

Or was it a slip? Hard to say. But watching for similar gaffes, verbal or purely visual, made it more than likely that in a protracted evening of self-celebration, even jaded viewers would stayed tuned.