Hi, all. We’re a bit behind in everything, due to some behind-the-scenes stuff here in the library. But I did want to post some coverage of New York City’s biggest fashion, museum, philanthropic, and arts event, the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Ball.
The Costume Institute Ball has grown into an opportunity for fashionistas and celebrities to pull out all the stops and go for big drama entrances. It’s called “The Oscars of the East Coast” because it is the biggest arts or philanthropic event of the New York gala season, and it showcases the biggest names in fashion, the arts, the financial world (it is a benefit for the Costume Institute), and the museum world. As the New York 400 social set has given way to celebrities of television, film, and popular music, the invitations list has shifted somewhat, but it remains a Very Big Deal. Vogue magazine and the couture house of Chanel pay for it, and the proceeds provide the entire budget for the Costume Institute’s next year.
This year’s ball celebrated the opening of the show Rei Kawakubo/ Comme des Garcon Art of the In-Between.
The fashion ideal at the Costume Institute Gala is that guests (carefully selected by Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief at Vogue) need to make a strong visual statement, pay hommage to or (ideally) wear the designer whose work is being celebrated, and look fashionable and maybe elegant. Comme des Garcons is as much conceptual art as it is fashion, however, and dramatically at odds with the usual hyper-feminized starlet image. Consequently, few wore Kawakubo’s work to this event. So first, a shout out to some who braved it:
Helen Lasichanh & Pharrell Williams
Tracee Ellis Ross
Sofia Sanchez deBetak
Anybody notice anyone else?
And before you hate on Helen Lasichanh’s jumpsuit here, let me point out that it’s challenged your assumptions (which is Kawakubo’s point) about movement of the body and access to key body parts, like hands (as in the lack of cuffs/openings there). Plus, she’s created a completely different shape, making you think about the shape of a human, female body.
IMO, I thought Sofia Sanchez and Tracee Ellis Ross made the most successful choices, but major props to Caroline Kennedy, Helen Lasichanh, and Rihanna for sheer moxie!
Note that many of the red carpet crew were guests of designers who were invited. Consequently, these guests were committed to wearing the work of the person who invited them. (Shoutout to TLo for making this excellent point.)
It was thoughtful of Just Jared to put together this short cheat sheet of who is wearing which designer…
In order to process Kawakubo’s work for Comme de Garcons, I find it useful to think of her not as a fashion designer, but rather, as an artist who uses fabric collations to make us rethink our assumptions about the human body. Her work combines fashion history, technical mastery, and a deep connection with the creative zeitgeist as well as an anti-“pretty” aesthetic that make it thought-provoking and inspiring as well as off-putting (for many).
This NYT review of the exhibition does a good job of putting it into context.
So, back to our Red Carpet Bingo Page:
Oooh, Didn’t want to see that! Kendall Jenner wins!
Frankendress: I’m going with Cynthia Erivo, whose gown looked like it had been assembled from pieces parts (Although possibly big enough and in-between enough for the show)(and those arms, swoon!).
Skating Partners: This would be Tom Brady and Gisele Bundschen in their silvery splendor.
Blond on Bland: Oh, Gwyneth, go bigger or go home!
Yes, It’s Art, but…? Totally giving this to Rihanna, along with the props for werquin’ it!
Mermaid Slink: Emily Ratajkowski wins this, along with points for not Hollywoodizing her name. Sure, you coulda gone bigger, but…
Giant Meringue: This belongs to Janelle Monae. I’d have kept the skirt a tad smaller, but at least she has the ovaries to carry it! Plus the feather collar was AMAAAZZing.
Woebegone Whimsey: This goes to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who looked both “Grandma’s attic” and joyless all evening.
Glinty Rocks: Cara Delevigne! So sparkly!
When Ruffles Go Bad: I’m giving this to Cassie Ventura for all those black spiky things!
Full Metal Frock: Many contenders here: Sofia Coppola, Sofia Ritchie and Michelle Monaghan. Not my favorite, but at least glitzy enough for the occasion.
Tuxedo Tantrum: This has to go to Alessandro Michele. Wow. Too many ideas, not enough balance.
Not Netflix ‘n Chill: I hate to do this, but really, Pharell Williams, this was your show! Couldn’t you have stepped it up a bit?
Suited You: P. Diddy takes this one. Sharp, within Kawakubo’s color/geometric interests, entrance-making.
Achoo! Chrissy Teigen, so much meh in one over-designed dress!
Blood & Lipstick: The one I love: Rita Ora <3. The one that makes me go, “Ugh!”: Thandie Newton. Ugh!
Pantsuit Prowess: Amy Fine Collins wore the most successful of the mash-up conceptual gowns worn. And Evan Rachel Wood looked great. Formal, chic, with a bit of drama.
See Right Through Me: Oh, Kylie Jenner, that was SOOO 2 years ago! This is the point where “fashion” stops meaning “clothing” and encompasses all forms of “self-decoration”. And also where we see clearly what Valerie Steele means when she discusses the commodification of the female body. This display shouts “I’m advantaged enough to maintain this ideal shell with ease!”
Dear Prudence: Why so many??? (see expanded “When did you join the convent?” below)
When I’m Famous! Rita Ora’s gorgeous red wrapped dress made me drool! And I loved Zoe Kravitz’ hommage to “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds”!
Invisible Man: There are always a lot of these, but I thought John Legend looked especially bland next to Chrissy’s over-the-top confection.
Con is Next Door –> Yeah. Nicky Minaj, that was not a success. Celine Dion, a tad more so, but it needed more or less of *something*, not sure what. And Amy Shumer? No. I love you, but you are not a super villain.
Not 12 Anymore! Elle Fanning looked particularly like she had chosen a spare Belle costume from Beauty and the Beast.
Sketch was Terrific, but… Laura Osnes, I’m sure that dress is a technical masterpiece, but …
Some shout outs in the category of “Hommage at least, if not wearing the actual”:
Hailey Steinfeld’s Vera Wang;
Gigi Hadad’s Tomy Hilfiger (I liked this one so much better than Priyanka Chopra’s Lauren. Maybe because it played with texture more?);
Migos with their luscious layers of black on black on black;
Cynthia Erivo and Adwoa Aboah for their proportion-tangling white gowns;
Lilly Collins, pageboy and sharp/soft juxtaposition;
Amy Fine Collins, for a mixture that managed to also look sleek;
Jourdan Dunn and Clare Danes for their clever menswear deconstructionist mashups;
Solange for the pure architectural weirdness of her Thom Browne puffer;
and finally, the grand prize winner, Katy Perry, in her Galliano-designed Chinese/hip hop/lingerie bride look. Wow. That took ovaries!
In the category of, “When did you join the convent?” we have some notable entrants…
Jennifer Lopez. Really, girl? We *know* you know how to swim in the shark pool.
Kim Kardashian: A look so simple it can only be seen as making an anti-statement.
Felicity Jones: Sheer meets Victorian, but why here?
Mindy Lahiri: You wear more interesting clothes in your show weekly! So disappointed.
Karen Elson: Disney safe, to be sure.
Stacy Martin: A Tim-Burton nightgown?
Zoey Deutch: Save it for a fundraiser in the Hamptons!
Sarah Paulson: A little less Audrey Hepburn here, please!
I’m curious, though. There is a point to their understated choices. In the face of the extreme shapes and colors of this event, these gowns act sort of like normcore: a protest in their conventionality. I think it’s a timid answer, but maybe it’s still a strong statement.
I have a category this go ’round that is “Wow, you were at a completely different event than the Met Gala for Rei Kawakubo, weren’t you!”, aka “YOU TOTALLY MISSED THE POINT!”.
Some winners in this category included…
Zendaya: Very pretty, but huh?
Gwyneth Paltrow: pink cardboard cocktail gown here?
Jennifer Connoly: this isn’t lunch out with your great aunt.
Miranda Kerr: save it for the next remake of “Roman Holiday”!
Back to the work at the center of the occasion:
For some other pieces of the occasion:
The actual celebrity party:
Many sites covered this event. These are some of my favorites:
For a sideways look at all of this, filtered through math and science: https://www.racked.com/2017/5/2/15518540/met-gala-gown-design-science-technology-engineering
Have a lovely evening! Here’s the bingo card again so you can play along with Cannes sightings!