Red Carpet Isn't for Shrinking Violets
That's not to say the fashions were boring. On the contrary, the looks seemed fresh and many of them even fashion-forward.
The newest trend unveiled at the television awards ceremony was purple.
From lavenders and lilacs to eggplant and deep violet, purple was the "it" color to wear.
"It's not girly, it's not bright pink or neon blue," said Katrina Szish, style director at US Weekly magazine. "We're talking about really grown-up, rich colors. And I think for an awards show, when it's the end of summer - it was like 110 degrees out there on the red carpet - it's also just starting to feel like fall. So you don't want to bring out something too springy and summery, but you also don't want to bring out anything that feels too much like fall. So that was the perfect way to bridge that gap - with color."
Evangeline Lilly of "Lost," Leah Remini of "King of Queens," Ellen Pompeo of "Grey's Anatomy" and Jaime Pressly of "My Name is Earl" all pulled off the pretty in purple look, each in varying shades and styles.
The best purple look - and best dressed overall - was perennial style-setter Sandra Oh of "Grey's Anatomy," in a ruffly, loosely constructed Vera Wang.
"It had that Marie Antoinette feel to it," said Nicole Phelpf, executive editor at Style.com. "Very feminine and very sort of frilly at the neckline. And it was in that hard-to-describe purply color that a lot of people chose."
Red - also in varying shades - is the hot "pop" color of fall's fashion trend toward deeper, darker colors. Prime-time stars knew that.
Many actresses, including Allison Janney of "The West Wing" and Heidi Klum of "Project Runway," wore red, the comeback color of the night.
Actresses not wearing red or purple looked best when in white - such as Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" and Sarah Chalke of "Scrubs" - or black, such as Lisa Rinna of "Dancing with the Stars."
Although strapless was a major silhouette for this event, last night's red carpet was rife with interesting necklines.
From Oh's ruffles and mix-and-match jewelry to Portia de Rossi's pinwheel-like straps, the most exciting dresses did something different up top.
Again, Oh pulled the look off the best, piling on at least four different necklaces of varying lengths and styles, and making them look eclectic, not cluttered.
"I look sort of like a czarina with a little Run DMC," Oh said in an interview with E! Entertainment Channel's Giuliani DePandi.
What made Oh's look even more of a standout was that almost no one wore a necklace last night.
"Even though people still went for strapless, there were no spaghetti straps - spaghetti straps are out - the detail was drawing to the neck, but not using necklaces," Szish said. "Anyone who had a necklace, just looked wrong."
No new hair trend was unveiled at the show aired live on NBC. Many celebrities opted for the messy updo, popular at this year's Oscars, with side-swept bangs. Still others - such as a beautifully turned out Kyra Sedgwick of "The Closer" - wore their tresses long and loose.
"At the beginning, I was noticing a lot of hair up but there were a lot of women who kept their hair down," Phelpf said. "I think that's really interesting, the sort of dressing up but, not really working hard on the hair. I think that is one way to say, 'Look this is the Emmys, not the Oscars. I'm not going to put my hair up. I'm going to have fun tonight.'"
Most leading men played it safe in classic dark suits and ties. Many who chose straight ties opted to show their style through the color or design of the tie - such as Randy Jackson of "American Idol."
But Jeremy Piven of "Entourage" tried too hard to be different in a belted suit and an overdone ascot.
"I think the reason why men's suits haven't changed over the centuries is because they've found the look that works," Phelpf said. "The ascot was very Bob Evans."