Yesterday was Met Monday: the evening on which fashion and its purveyors descend with grand heave and gallant grace upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in celebration of the annual style installation at the museum’s Costume Institute. If the Oscars are the Super Bowl of fashion, then this themed evening of theatrical glamour and pageantry at the Met is the Oscars of fashion; the apotheosis of fashion arts. This year’s exhibition, running from May 7 through August 16, China: Through the Looking Glass, seeks to excavate and celebrate the far-reaching influences of China on Western dress. As is customary, the theme for the evening’s gala matched that of the exhibit. So, in as much as we were to expect sartorial references to China on the red carpet, one would be remiss to overlook the clause after the colon, “Through the Looking Glass”. The allusion to C.S. Lewis’s sequel to Alice in Wonderland hints that we were to be (or should have been) whisked into a world of fairy tale drama and fantasy. Given a muse as profoundly rich as China and a mandate to bring on the other-worldly, full regalia; given a Pierian Spring so bubbling over with wealth of from which to pull, contort and abstract, one who chooses not to drink deeply does so at his own peril.
“A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”
– Alexander Pope
And indeed, much of last night left us high and dry, or rather, if you see life through Popeian lenses, left us truly inebriated and in dire want of the sort sobriety borne of ostentation. Choosing to ignore – in light of the occasion which called for a commitment to risk – the safe ensembles, let us put through the magnifying glass the attendees who brought the paradisiac drama and those that dragged us through the gyre of hell itself.
Torrents of Torment
Sarah Jessica Parker in Philip Treacey, H&M and Fred Leighton Jewels:
“…nor hell a fury like [Philip Treacy] scorned, ” apparently. SJP must have trespassed against the milliner and be made to pay penitence by literally piling fire and brimstone atop her head. I’ve read the references to Disney’s incarnation of Jafar and while I agree that the entire jabberwocky is far too cartoon-like to be taken seriously, I believe the more accurate source-material must have been Hades from Disney’s Hercules. All of the Fred Leighton in the world could not forgive this red sin.
Chloe Sevigny in J.W. Anderson:
Do not let them pull the Chinese-spun wool over your eyes and tell you this is some sort of art that only fashion thoroughbreds understand. Do not be fooled! It is a chinasore, bleeding to death in the overwroughtness of its juxtapositions from choker to hemline.
Jennifer Lawrence in Dior:
As a card-carrying Raficionado, permit me to believe that this dress is not as mis-matched in themes and contexts as it appears. I simply think Ms. Lawrence does not have the innate dress-wearing gumption to carry this gown to glory.
Kerry Washington in Prada:
While insanely gorgeous from the back, this frock resembles a schoolgirl’s pinafore from the front. With the added disadvantage of heavy side pleating, the dress is utterly unflattering. And, while one can understand the desire to shock with shoe colour, the choice of satiny emerald only enhances how puerile the pink pinafore with all of its bows make her look.
Diana Kruger in Chanel:
It hurts me to put this here as the whip hurts the self-flagellant: Frau Kruger is demi-god in my pantheon of muses. And while the make-up and hair are divinely rendered, how does one absolve oneself of those trousers and their fraying hemline, especially as paired with a perfectly beautiful top? The off-kilter proportions do us no favours here: perhaps if the top were hemmed a little higher and the trousers nipped right at the ankle, we might have been looking at a forgivable ensemble? Or am I lying to myself – a sin in and of itself – because I worship at the Church of Frau Diane?
Chloe Grace Moretz in Coach:
The Met Gala. The Met BALL. Not your living room. Even if the memo got lost, this simply is no way to leave your house*.
*For how to leave your house in Pajamas, please refer to the section on Grace Coddington.
Alicia Keys in John Paul Gaultier:
I am just going to steal from a friend and this spade a spade: John Paul Dontier. Does one really need to parse this to understand why it is assault upon our eyes? And from whence the idea that this coiffure of rejected prom queens was the to be the cake-topper?
Beyoncé in Balenciaga:
(And JLo in Versace and Kim Kardashian in Roberto Cavalli). In my salad days, when I had a penchant for wearing very mini skirts, my mother would say in Ewe, “if you want to walk around naked, why don’t you just take off all your clothes?” I don’t understand why fabric and gems are being wasted: if people just want to prance around in the nude, please let them, and put the raw materials to better use. When Rihanna wore Adam Selman at the CFDA Awards, it was a sort of Robert Altman’s Pret-a-Porter moment (and there was a political statement being made given her Instagram fiasco). Everyone else seems to find sanctification in being Showgirls in her shadow. There is a place for nudity in art: this is not it or how. Ultimately, there must always be balance. Not an ounce of finesse, besides the gorgeous cut, is on display here. I wagered, even before they rolled out the red carpet, that if Beyoncé did not wear gold and glitter and jewels and (somehow, still) nothing, I would eat my hat. My hat is intact and on a shelf. This is formulaic Bey with a standard deviation of zero. I suppose the basic rule and constant is that a leopard never changes its
spots bejewelling. I haven’t even the art to describe why this ponytail looks tawdry and if it begs explaining then we are beyond expiation. To put it bluntly, when the who-wore-it-bests of the interverse have you throwing down the gauntlet to Vanessa Callway’s character in Coming to America, you must reexamine your life and repent, for the end is nigh. Her makeup artist must, in any case, been given all the kudos for being her saving grace.
Flashes of Ecstasy
Solange in Giles:
Solange is not a kind person. How very dare she step into this sublimity and allow her sister to attend the same event looking like something the souks and bazaars threw for fear it was too garish? Here she is, on theme without being a caricature – in an abstraction that goes beyond the fan shape of the bodice – , architectural, provocative, psychedelic, futuristic. The look is as dramatic as it is poised and her elegantly swept back mane and simple yet decadent Cartier jewels paint on the final varnish of sophistication on this Chinese vase of a look.
Fan Bing Bing in custom Christopher Bu
Like watching the stained glass of a storied temple draped over molten gold, such is the euphoria engendered by this regal ensemble. Fan Bing Bing captures the delicate art of excess and clashing (refer to Chloe Sevigny above for the opposite) with easy dexterity. The lush emerald cape is art to any eye, elevating her simple, slinky dress en or to the stuff of which majesty is made. Balancing the act with tasteful earring and a neat, severe bun, she is here not to partake of, but rather to lead worship in this vestment.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen both in vintage Galliano for Dior:
So many have complained to me that the twins look aged and to them I say, sorry, you just don’t get it. These two are masters of mature elegance and as one with a personal penchant for old-world style, they can do no wrong in my eyes. On a night when everyone dug into the coffers of colour and gold dust to pay homage to the theme, they stepped out in stygian robes and cashed checks through a sadly less-explored modality of the night: texture. In black on black on black, we are still injected with the decadent feel of the orient, a sense we owe also to the exaggerated proportions of collar and sleeve. They teach a masterclass on how dark monochromatic looks can be as variegated as one in living colour. Perfection.
Naomi Campbell in Burberry Prorsum:
There is not much to be said besides the fact that she just looks beautiful from head to toe. Ahh,the colour of those paillettes so expertly mapped atop her body, weaving around her frame as continents do the globe, and the ocean of jet-black plummage that spills forth from her knees: she is not of this earth, but rather is a celestial being, “clad in the light of a pole-star”.
Say what you will, but only my Auntie (in my head) Grace could wear her Chinese pajamas to the Met and then dash off to the airport in the same ensemble to catch a flight right after the Red Carpet festivities and do it all with such aplomb. As woman who likes to travel in comfort, I understand it, Auntie Grace, I do. The jewel blue silk is pure luxury and such a delightful confection against her fiery ginger locks. She is serving “The Met is my home” realness and honey, I, for one, am a guest at this table. Hashtag: here.for.it.
Amal Clooney in John Galliano for
Dior Maison Martin Margiela :
I shall say it again, my life is Galliano-hate-free zone. I have nothing but awe and respect for the Grandmaster not only because he can conceptualize and create such armor as is evinced by the above, but because I believe he performed his mea culpa the right way. To err is human etc. etc. So now that the dust has settled on that, let us examine the subltle reference here to Chinese battle dress , especially that of the Qin dynasty, and how his blessed hands turned something so stoic into something so soft by sculpting the idea into this mesmerizingly precise bodice and pitting it against/ together with tiers and tiers of deliberately haphazard ruffles. Teach us how it is done, Sifu.
Zhang Ziyi in Carolina Herrera:
Here is another rendition of the theme that does not rely on excess to make its mark. There is so much about the Chinese way of dress that is an exultation of elegant simplicity, particularly that of line. Ziyi and Herrera’s dress is one a classic beginning with a western end: pristine but not for a moment boring with a dollop of muted colour and textural intrigue to keep us engaged.
Rihanna in Guo Pei
Angels we have heard on high. Yes, heavenly hosts are singing; the clarion has been sounded, shots have been fired, dragons have been slain. I tell you no lie, I experienced religious ecstasy last night, as though unicorns were watering my soul with their very own tears. How do you do over-the-top without making a mockery of yourself? Exactly like this. (SJP, girl, let Rihanna come through!). I am not a Rihanna fan by any stretch of the imagination (then again I know nothing about pop music, frankly). I am a fan of her creative team precisely because her style is the very antithesis of everything in which I believe and yet I always adore her presentation. These are some people who quite obviously know what the hell they are doing. I can think of no other style team with this sort of power, this ability to transmute what in any other hands would be an exercise in gauchery, into something so perfectly polished. When a woman steps onto the Red Carpet and manages to make you give up in an instant all your aspirations for your life, content with simply ogling angles of her ensemble into the wee hours of the morning, I believe the only word that can be used to describe the occurrence is sorcery. Beyoncé, to whom she is oft compared, has one look from which she does not stray. What Rihanna has is a quintessence which she and her team realise in several and sundry ways: she is always Rihanna but she is never a broken record. She holds steadfastly to her trademark sex appeal as we wonder what lies beneath the sunny robe, yet she leaves enough to our imagination; we are sated by envisioning how the endless yards of buttery silk and intricately embroidered threads must feel against the skin, how plush the fur must be to the touch. Who among us did no rush off to google Guo Pei yesterday and count our lives that much more enriched for the inspiration? Have you not effectively been transported to another dimension far more steeped in pulchritude than the quotidian one which we inhabit? Is that not point of all this pomp and pageantry: to set, as Muriel Barbery described it, “a jewel of infinity in a moment”? Are you not spurred on to cling patiently to your passions through the knowledge this work of art was made by the hands of a single woman who took two years to complete the tapestry? Congregants, are you not moved? If your goals in life do not include no less than three mortals being tasked with your train, you are not aiming high enough: do better! Go forth and prosper. Gloria in excelsis deo!
And On The Matter of Anna Wintour in Chanel:
One cannot possibly discuss the Met Gala without discussing the hostess herself, Ms. Anna Wintour as it is essentially her party; the very institute in which housed the exhibit is named after her. Rank and file are deeply fissured over Mutha’s look and for good reason: it is not an easy one to love. I like it. Without the winged-glory of those sleeves, it would have been a safe venture. I applaud her choice to fly in the direction of risk as the evening demanded. The orangey-reds flatter her and bring us right back to China, where we began.
Parenthetical Honorable Mention to Tabitha Simmon’s Headdress by Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda:
Because we are not against the headdress. We merely feel trespassed against by SJP’s.