Sure, there was skin. There were sequins. There were feathers. But from the VMAs, for gosh sakes — from Gaga, Katy and Ke$ha! — frankly we expected a little less cutesy, a little more rock 'n' roll.

Observe, if you will, a parade of gowns that could have graced any red carpet without embarrassment! This is when Karina Smirnoff gets restrained?

Ashley Greene is Sweet 16-ready.

Rosario Dawson opted for leather, but in a classic shape.

Ditto Emma Stone

Miranda Cosgrove would be a dainty "good" in any context — and since she makes a point of keeping it role-model refined, it's hard to fault her.

Naturi Naughton's palette is sophisticated indeed; it risks getting lost amidst the upcoming barrage of sparkles.

Because, when in doubt, they went sparkle-motion. See Lenay Dunn's rosy take.

Love that Amber Riley matched hers with assertive specs.

Lo Bosworth, vaguely retro, definitely ill-judged.

Stephanie Pratt, per usual, checked the "sexy" option on the menu card.

And Audrina Partridge was ready for Ice Capades.

If you're gonna do VMA sparkle, go all-out, like Lauren McKnight!

Don't worry, there was still some outrageousness, albeit minimalist. Ke$ha brought the Mad Max.

Eva Pigford was equal parts exposed and embellished.

Katy Perry raided the ice-dancing costume shop, flashed a little boob, and called it a day.

One of the few to really commit, Laurie Ann Gibson.

With everyone else in sparkle and flash, Gaga went all regal, summoning a sinister Red Queen.

Kinda digging that Coco Rocha just did what she does: gorgeous in a glam gown.

And while Jane Lynch looks ready to take on an unruly class at Hogwarts, it's a look she can pull off.

Meanwhile, does anyone else think Bieber looks ridiculous?