Fashion at the Palm Springs Film Fest Gala: Short and Sweet

Sandra Bullock Palm Springs - H - 2013
Associated Press

All eyes were on legs as the top women being honored at the Palm Springs Film Festival wore colorful cocktail-length dresses to show off their gams and build up to the pomp and circumstance that lies ahead.

If there were any fashion statements to be made -- and there always are -- at the Palm Springs Film Festival gala that kicked off awards season on Jan. 4, it was that shine and color rule, a little mix of print and embellishment won't kill anybody, texture is important (but we knew that as soon as we saw the spring 2014 collections), and legs are a great fashion accessory when they're toned and long and have great sexy shoes attached to the end of them.

Perhaps the surprise of the evening was Sandra Bullock's pink and orange lace body-hugging slightly-over-the-knee sheath (with exposed zipper back) by Australian designer Alex Perry. Alex who? Bullock has been working Carolina Herrera and Roland Mouret frocks, so why wear an unknown designer? Perry isn't exactly unknown; he's established for his evening gowns and cocktail couture in his native Australia, where he's had his own line of evening wear since the early 90's.

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Bullock and her stylist Elizabeth Stewart are obviously fans of his interesting colorations: Bullock wore a tri-color orange-and-pink-toned dress of his to the Gravity premiere at the Venice Film Festival in August. And it was a big hit. She looks great in these warm blush tones. Still, Perry -- who's been all over Australian Vogue and dresses all the celebs Down Under -- has very few U.S. stores to his name, and has surprisingly just been dropped by Australia's biggest retailer, David Jones, who chalked it up to tough financial times. Perhaps Bullock has befriended him and was trying to raise his higher profile? If so, it worked. She looked slinky and fantastic in the dress, and kept her hair and makeup very simple so the dress and its disparate colors -- with great curvy lines at the decolletage -- did all the talking. It would be hard to dispute that she was the best dressed of the evening.

Julia Roberts -- being styled as well by the very busy Elizabeth Stewart  -- also turned heads in a short Gucci leopard swing dress with short sleeves and lace covering the leopard. There was also a surprise element of gold disks at the cuff and the hem, making the dress a little more dressy. Perhaps the funniest part was when she came onstage to give Tom Hanks his Chairman's Award in giant glasses. Still, her legs stole the show. Even Hanks had to express his admiration: "Doesn't Julia Roberts have a great pair of -- glasses?" he said, to a laughing audience of 2,000. 

Lupita Nyong'o, already becoming a fashion star, donned an Elie Saab knee-length sheath with gold embellishment, the skirt of which had a peach undertone. Very flattering tones on her skin and for her fabulous figure. An assistant carried the matching coat in the same tones, very chic. How does this new young star feel about ascending the ranks into fashion iconography so fast? "I have a great stylist," she told The Hollywood Reporter. "And she really understands my taste. We collaborate very, very well." She was referring to Micaela Erlanger, who also dresses Michelle Dockery.

Other ladies wore chic pants: Jane Fonda in a gold Gucci jacket and black trousers, Meryl Streep in black trousers and a simple black and gold sparkly top with sleeves and Gena Rowlands in a white Gucci tux jacket. Others wore long gowns. American Hustle star Amy Adams' striking long black halter Juan Carlos Obando gown with tiny dots on the flowy chiffon skirt was certainly pretty, but with her hair slicked back, she looked pale and almost disappeared into the background when this is certainly her moment to shine. Still, you can't argue with pretty subtlety.

Mandela's Naomie Harris wore a white lace Naeem Khan gown with sleeves (do we smell a trend?) that dove into sheerness starting at the knee -- totally appropriate. She looked pretty amazing. And so did Camila Alves, who wore a slinky black silk Mikael D gown with twisting lace insets -- working every trend from spring 2014 and then some.

But the ladies who are going to all the other awards shows were smart; they started in colorful cocktail wear so they have everywhere to go when it comes to ornate and elaborate gowns next week and the week after.