Shailene Woodley seemed to have embraced that brief. The best supporting actress nominee in a limited series, for the HBO show “Big Little Lies,” wore a custom Ralph Lauren dress in witchy green velvet, its V-form neckline dropping to her waist.
Jessica Biel got a similar message, in a platinum-tinted Ralph & Russo gown slashed strategically to show a wide expanse of skin. Others followed suit, flaunting their assets, for better or worse, in diaphanous dresses gashed to the navel or provocatively slit at the hip. When it came to confecting an image, playing the sex card was, paradoxically, playing it safe.
Still, red-carpet veterans like Nicole Kidman had other ideas. Ms. Kidman, named best actress in a limited series for “Big Little Lies,” chose to underscore her stature as a worldly fashion muse. Deftly negotiating the wobbly line between steaminess and cool, she wore a scarlet ballerina-length Calvin Klein dress of silk gazar, demure except for its coyly slit neckline.
Image-savvy and by no means trend-averse, Zoë Kravitz of “Big Little Lies” reinforced her reputation as tastemaker in Christian Dior couture, the varicolored panels of her dress embroidered in tufts of feathers.
That dress was one in a series of departures from the vaunted midcentury throwback, the trumpet-skirted mermaid gown. Claire Foy, who had been nominated as the lead actress in a drama series for her role in the Netflix series “The Crown,” wore a crystal-trimmed black Oscar de la Renta jumpsuit, racy in its sleekness. It was topped for sheer nerve by Evan Rachel Wood’s riskier, if more memorable, choice: a white dinner jacket, bustier top and tails whipped up for the HBO “Westworld” best actress nominee by Jeremy Scott of Moschino.
The event’s stroll of fame did, unexpectedly, spawn a few trends. Any number of stars were sheathed goddess-style in molten silver. But Millie Bobby Brown of the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” at 13 one of the Emmys’ youngest-ever contenders, opted quite consciously for something more virginal, strolling the carpet in a strapless, full-skirted white Calvin Klein gown that could have doubled as a wedding dress. In a similar mood, Elisabeth Moss, named best actress for her role in “A Handmaid’s Tale” from Hulu, chose a pale pink confection by Prabal Gurung that had all the freshness, and calculated naïveté, of a 1950s prom gown.
Ms. Kravitz herself advanced this tender theme with a gamine look that brought to mind a waifish Mia Farrow. Sure, her incongruous accents to her Dior gown, strings of Tiffany diamonds setting off her scattered tattoos, flirted with the cutting edge.
But her look over all felt quite magical, she told Jason Kennedy, a host on E! “It’s fairylike,” she said. “I thought I would go for it.”