The 'calculated' choice Jennifer Garner, Jane Fonda, and more actresses over 40 made at the Oscars

At the Oscars on Sunday night, we got an eyeful of the trendy shades of spring — pastels and nudes — adorned with ruffles, lace, and fringe, as there were stars whose sequins and jewels shone as brightly as the show’s bedazzled stage. But the women we often couldn’t take our eyes off were the ones in bright reds, deep blues, stark whites, and one bright Barbie pink — all bold shades worn by actresses over 40. The reason behind this wise choice is a hot tip we might all want to remember.

“We were aiming for bold, proud, strong, happy!” stylist Elizabeth Stewart tells Yahoo Style about Viola Davis’s sequined pink gown from Michael Kors Collection. “And not conforming to Oscar red carpet expectations and norms.”

Pink was an unexpected choice, but choosing to emphasize color is not, according to style and beauty expert Mary Alice Stephenson, founder of Glam4Good. The red of Meryl Streep’s plunging custom-made Christian Dior and Allison Janney’s Reem Acra, and the blue of Jennifer Garner’s Atelier Versace and Nicole Kidman’s Armani Privé, were calculated moves by red carpet veterans, she says.

“These women all look fresh because they kept it clean and simple and all used color and shape for drama,” Stephenson says. “If you have too much going on — the over-the-top hairdos, tons of jewelry and tons of adornment on your dress — it actually ages you.”

After years of awards shows and premieres, there’s probably no cut, style, or designer these actresses haven’t tried. They no longer need to experiment, and they know exactly what fits on their body.

“They know that fit is everything at the Oscars,” Stephenson says. “You can have the most stunning dress, but if it doesn’t fit you right, you’ll be attacked. It won’t work.”

This doesn’t mean actresses over a certain age need to wear the same style over and over. Rather, they can choose to make statements that emphasize their best assets, as Jane Fonda did in her figure-hugging white Balmain gown with its strong shoulders and edgy neckline.

Younger stars have extra pressure to prove themselves in the fashion world, Stephenson explains, which is why they go in for the dresses straight from the runway. “Some of the younger women are vying for attention from fashion houses to get ad campaigns, or they are in ad campaigns,” she says.

Those of us (of any age) watching from home who won’t be hitting the red carpet anytime soon can learn something important from this: When in doubt, choose color.

“The truth is that often nude and those kind of colors don’t do much for skin like red or blue does, or even white,” Stephenson says. Or even, if you dare, Barbie pink.

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<p>Jennifer Garner stood out in a bright jewel blue at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner stood out in a bright jewel blue at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>White and bold white shoulder pads helped Jane Fonda shine at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Jane Fonda

White and bold white shoulder pads helped Jane Fonda shine at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Viola Davis is pretty in pink at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Viola Davis

Viola Davis is pretty in pink at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Meryl Streep went for bold red at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep went for bold red at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Crimson was also the pick for Allison Janney at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Allison Janney

Crimson was also the pick for Allison Janney at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Laura Dern was a vision in white at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Laura Dern

Laura Dern was a vision in white at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Nicole Kidman showed off her ivory skin against the cobalt blue of her gown at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman showed off her ivory skin against the cobalt blue of her gown at the 90th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood. (Photo: Getty Images)

<p>Maya Rudolph was beautiful in cherry red at the Oscars. (Photo: Getty Images) </p>
Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph was beautiful in cherry red at the Oscars. (Photo: Getty Images)

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