"A Night to Remember"
(Photo: Randy Brooke)
The Costume Institute Gala's red carpet was held to celebrate the opening of the exhibit, "Charles James:Beyond Fashion" at the Met from May 8 until August 10. However the display, while showcasing spectacularly constructed couture, was beside the point. This event is all about New Yorkers showing Californians that we can do a celebrity studded event as big as LA in a more organized fashion and with more creativity and excitement (despite Gwyneth Paltrow's feeling to the contrary), without having to close down ten avenue blocks. The evening was more celebrity packed than any of the other years of memory with couples who normally shun the spotlight such as Sean Penn and Charlize Theron, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, Victoria and David Beckham, and Amber Heard and Johnny Depp proudly strolling down the red carpet. The mix of socialites, movie and television stars, supermodels and billionaire moguls was an amalgam that is rarely seen on any occasion in any country.
|Riccardo Tisci and Naomi Campbell|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
The only explanation for the immense turnout is the woman behind the Costume Institute- Mrs. Wintour herself and the venue at which the event is held - the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is home to a treasure trove of art and design masterpieces. A palpable excitement was felt in the press check-in which began at 4:30 PM with nearly all the photographers and media showing up in tuxedos and gowns- perhaps writing and picture taking is lucrative. British born designer, Charles James, is viewed as America's first couturier who mastered the lavish sculpted ball gown so the dress code which specified white tie, tails and decorations for the men along with lavish ball gowns and gloves for the women could have been a study in ridicule; however, to the chagrin of many, myself included, few in attendance at the event adhered to the dress code.
|Karlie Kloss in Oscar de la Renta|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
I was looking forward to seeing Kanye West and Jay Z in top hats and "decorations" with their accompanying belles, Kim and Beyonce in poufed out gowns and gloves; however, both these couples came in demure dresses and tuxedos leaving me bored and dejected at the thought of having nothing to laugh at for the next couple of months. Anna Wintour who came on the red carpet first, flouted the dress code, as usual, by appearing in an expensive looking floral concoction, with black ribbons strewn throughout. This was my favorite of her looks especially sans fur shawl. Wintour, who was teary eyed, said she was "honored" to have the first lady and all her friends in the industry come out to support her and felt "humbled" by the experience.
|Sarah Jessica Parker|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
The few in the crowd who looked magnificent while adhering to the dress code deserve to be praised as this was a difficult feat to achieve judging by the sparse numbers who accomplished it. Sarah Jessica Parker, stunned in a floor length black and white Oscar de la Renta dress with white gloves and Oscar's signature sewn into the back of the dress. Parker, accompanied by Andy Cohen who referred to Sarah as someone as iconic as the Statue of Liberty, started off the evening on a fashion high note which few others were able to live up to. Bradley Cooper, whose increased girth was noteworthy, went whizzing by, while his girlfriend Suki Waterhouse posed tirelessly in a resplendent Burberry tulle gown replete with pink and light green frothy layers.
|Katie Holmes in Marchesa|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
Some more fashion hits abiding to the ball gown theme were Karolina Kurkova in a blue Marchesa sculpted gown and Katie Holmes in a beguiling yellow off the shoulder Marchesa- these two were standouts. Zac Posen, who estimated he dressed 11 women for the evening, looked draculalike in a custom Ralph Rucci couture suit. Posen was accompanied by Dita Von Teese wearing a red and cream Posen dress- these two gave the Addams family a run for the money. Others wearing Zac Posen, whose gowns are sculpted and constructed similar to Charles James, included model Liu Wen who stunned in a sea foam green Posen and Karen Elson who appeared resplendent in a light pink debutante dress; basically if you wore Zac, your look was on target.
|Nicole Richie in Donna Karan and Katie Couric|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
However, some fashion luminaries, such as Lupita Nyong'o and Gabrielle Union chose to go Prada to unfortunate effect. Lupita, it seems, thought this was a Great Gatsby premiere, which is the only way to describe her bejeweled green Prada getup. Similarly, Gabrielle Union wearing a black Prada bra top and skirt, got the theme wrong dressing for a punk meets goth night out on the town. Another punk holdover was Nicole Richie in her outdated purple hairdo and gray slip Donna Karan dress. Similary, Kristen Stewart, in a sheer starry Chanel dress with multicolored hair looked edgy and fashion forward- perfect for last year's punk theme. Lena Dunham, in a Giambattista Valli gown, which was ill fitted with a short hem in the front and a semi long skirt in the back appeared in a trend that is no longer current. Taylor Swift, who was scheduled to wear J. Mendel, wore a luminous pink Oscar de la Renta dress with a bow in the back and an embroidered train. Naomi Campbell, in an ivory studded Givenchy gown, looked radiant and glamorous putting her younger counterparts to shame when she graced the red carpet accompanied by Riccardo Tisci.
|Tabitha Simmons in Dolce and Gabbana|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
There were some trends that were surprising, including the ubiquitous black and white combo which never seems to grow old, the floral bridesmaid Dolce and Gabbana look, and the "I am too cool to care what the theme is" ensemble. First, the black and white gowns sported by the statuesque Charlize Theron, the party girl supermodel Cara Delevingne, the fashion designer Stella McCartney, and the fashion forward Hailee Steinfeld and Naomi Watts was a modern, sporty look but lacked the wow factor that was supposed to be a signature of this event. On the other hand, the floral loose Dolce and Gabbana alta moda dress worn by Tabitha Simmons with a long train and pink floral appliques was magnificent- yet it just felt wrong for anything but a bridal dress at an outdoor Italian wedding.
(Photo Lieba Nesis)
Similarly, Giovanna Battaglia, in a black floral Dolce and Gabbana dress - was pretty but predictable and chose a dress that did not flatter her slim figure. Kate Upton, looking svelte in a black sheer illusion Gabbana dress with a floral headpiece proved that while she may never be a fashion icon teenage boys will continue to worship her bountiful figure.Those who looked elegant with little heed to the theme are too many to list yet a couple deserve mention. Anne Hathaway was boring in a red gown as compared to her knockout look last year. Rachel McAdams in a light pink sheath was plain, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in a short black and gold heavily constructed Balmain was dramatic yet off theme for this evening. Victoria Beckham, as a designer herself, should have done better than a white column dress, and Grace Coddington who admitted to doing the "opposite" attended in a black pantsuit. On the other hand, we have to be thankful that Kim Kardashian looked elegant in a boring midnight blue gown.
|Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady|
(Photo: Lieba Nesis)
The biggest disappointment of the evening was Beyonce, who as usual showed up hours late. However, instead of astounding us, as she usually does, with her fashion risk taking, she wore a muted black dress with her hair in a bun; Jay Z rescued the duo by spicing things up a bit with a white tuxedo jacket. Mostly, the men played it safe wearing classic tuxedos and designer suits. At the conclusion of the event at 11 PM, it dawned on me that this entire extravaganza takes place within the span of 4 hours. The excitement which vanishes in the blink of an eye will give rise to pictorial images and anecdotes that will last indefinitely. The Costume Institute which celebrates beauty and embellishment will continue to thrive as long as the illusion of celebrity continues to achieve ascendancy.
"A Face in the Crowd"
The masses were just starting to assemble as I took a place on the south side of 82nd Street. I soon moved to the slightly less dense north side and took up residence next to a melting pot of New Yorkers, white, Asian, black; young and, shall we say, less youthful (nobody was really old due to the need to stand, crane your head and dodge telephoto lenses, cell phones and the occasional iPad). Pretty soon there were people against the barricades, on the curb, on the raised concrete fenced in area in front of the buildings on Fifth Avenue as well as limber folks that climbed onto streetlights and onto the rear ledges of news vans. I trained my failing eyes on the small stretch of real estate under the tent; the portion of the red carpet which was visible. Cars would drive up a block to my right and while I couldn't see who was getting out, the response of the crowd would clue me in to know immediately whether it was "anyone who mattered" as one of my fellow onlookers termed it. The excitement would spread like wildfire through the crowd, the cheer would go up and then the shout-out for that person or couple. It was definitely a popularity contest of the hierarchy or ranking of the already popular, taking me back to my high school days when the captain of the football team, head cheerleader and homecoming queen would come onto the field. Early on, a streaker in a pink thong ran by and I wondered if it was the same guy who hit up the Prabal Gurung Fashion Week Show in February (at least it was a bit warmer now).
Besides trying desperately to see through or around the people in front of you, the oncoming traffic was never stopped meaning that every vehicle particularly the buses, would block your view and your shot not to mention the police, handlers and PR people on the carpet who would often get in the way. As the tourists buses went by, passengers were blithely taking photos of the assembled throngs rather than the stars on the carpet. The "snark-sters," a group of fashion conscious gay black men, hollered humorous derisions and expletives about what they were going to do to the bus or person blocking their visual access. They also provided endless entertainment as they critiqued the celebs and their frocks.
Some of my favorite comments include a description of Maggie Gyllenhaal's colorful dress and matching cape "She looks like an umbrella!"; the somewhat enhanced appearance of Taylor Swift: "Where'd those boobies come from? She's trying to get a husband tonight!" to "Donatella, show us your lips! She looks like she needs botox on her back." To the trio of Kendall Jenner, Jourdan Dunn, Toni Garrn "I bet they're all wearing Topshop" (which they were). When Diane Von Furstenberg appeared with Jessica Alba and Selena Gomez there was this about DVF "She's like 110 years old." Surprisingly, they also threw shade on People Mag's Most Beautiful Lupita Nyong 'o and her feathered "tribal" Prada number with this. "No, no, no Lupita! You disappoint me. Of all the places to make a fashion mistake, not the Met Gala!!! She should get back in the car." When someone would stay too long on the carpet they would say "Okay, Alexander Wang, you can go inside now." Their critique, while hysterical was actually spot on and they clearly worked in the fashion industry. They gave props to Victoria Beckham "look at that English girl posing with the hand on the hip" and loved her dress silhouette (her own design) but agreed that the back needed more "definition."
Some dresses such as Gabrielle Union's crop top and Brie Larson's gold pants ensemble were deemed not appropriate for an event such as this one. Brie Larson sporting the popular hairdo known as Bantu Knots recently seen on Rihanna at the iHeartRadio Music Awards in L.A. as well as on Anne Hathaway ,Miley Cyrus and others growing out short hair, was deemed ridiculous for the Met. When questioning some of the unlikely wardrobe choices, one of the men said in falsetto "What do you suppose she said? Oh, I'll just wear this?" He also did an impeccable Kim Kardashian imitation as in "I just can't...believe I'm on the cover of Vogue" in her singsong-y voice. Before the long awaited arrival of Kimye they warned Kim that "she better bring it after that disaster last year." Happily they were pleased when she arrived in teal Lanvin and said approvingly "That's a good dress!" followed by "look at that ass!" which one can't help doing. From our perch, of course, we didn't know that she was flashing her blue underwear but hey, at least she was wearing some. Meanwhile, to my left, a guy who professed to being "too old to know who anyone is" repeatedly asked me stupid questions like "Is that J-Lo?" (I have no idea who he was referring to because no one I saw looked remotely like her) or "Is Madonna coming?" and "How about Lady Gaga?" I gave him the withering look I generally reserve for my husband and he finally shut up.
Those who got the biggest whoops of approval ,especially when they turned and waved to the crowd after many concerted efforts to scream their names in unison, included Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield (who really gave the onlookers a thrill by appearing out of nowhere and crossing the street in front of us to get to the carpet), the Beckhams, Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Kristen Stewart, Nicole Richie ("in her slutty backless dress"), Stella McCartney, all of the younger Victoria's Secret models particularly Cara Delevigne whose choice of white pants didn't seem to bother them ("she can wear anything!), Rosie Huntington-Whitely in short Balmain (a few women behind me were spellbound by her beauty), and Karolina Kurkova in a gorgeous blue gown. Naomi Campbell went almost uncommented on; perhaps she wasn't recognized without a phone to throw. Blake Lively "killed it" and of course, so did Dita Von Teese accompanied by designer Zac Posen whose cape the guys were "over."
The most anticipated of the evening were Kim and Kanye, Rihanna, and Queen Bey and King Jay Z arriving last and in that order, were quite audibly rewarded. When Rihanna flashed her back to the crowd there was an unmistakable gasp (including me). The combination of her white strong shouldered dress , open back, cropped midriff and beautifully draped tail of her skirt made for an awesome sight in tandem with the flashing lights of the photographer's cameras. Rihanna got halfway up the stairs when even bigger diva appeared. "Be-yon-ce, Be-yon-ce, Be-yon-ce" came the chant and you could almost feel sorry for "Bad Girl RiRi."
When Bey and Jay finally arrived on the carpet, even the "peanut gallery" had nothing bad to say despite what I would term an underwhelming but sparkly beaded black bodice/sheer skirt and train get-up "She's got a sparkly net on her head," is all that they could collectively muster. If you happened to see SNL this week with Andrew Garfield as the host, there was a clip called "The Beygency" where no one must utter a single disparaging word about Bey or they are hunted down and put in a prison cell for life. The explanation: everyone here must have seen it!
- Laurel Marcus
The "Daily Bet" by Rhonda Erb
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