Gilded, Filtered, Twisted

As usual, attendees of the latest Met Gala stayed away from the theme as far as possible, or as abstrusely. From Gwen Stefani’s fluorescent pouf to Katy Perry’s black-swathe-on-white-mini-skirt, most were rather off the track, er, carpet. And the most anticipated guest came unexpectedly understated

Officially a couple, Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian. Photo: AP News

It has often been said: All that glitter is not necessarily gold. Similarly, all that is gilded is not necessarily glamour. Sure, the Met Gala, specifically the show that is the red carpet, will have you believe that this year’s theme, Gilded Glamour, will be a showcase of stars all aureate and alluring, and not one bit absurd. Fashion and prosperity are all there for the green of envy to overshadow the gold of excess. Ironically, this abundance was not truly the case back during The Gilded Age (approximately 1870—1900), from which the Met derived this year’s theme. Historians will concur that The Gilded Age, from Mark Twain’s 1873 book The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (co-written with Charles Dudley Warner), was used to disparage a time that was largely two sided: materialistic excesses on one and extreme poverty on the other. The Met Gala red carpet flaunt, of course, has never been a live history lesson.

According to Vogue, “Guests will be serving up their theatrical takes on white-tie dressing”. Theatrical is the operative word, but this year, the curtain was not fully raised, and the drama was not altogether fleshed out. Some even looked like stage hands enjoying the kindness of the costumer. “White-tie” really only applied to the men. The “fashion bible” quoted Anna Wintour saying, “What’s wonderful about the Met is that people feel very fearless.” Yet, Ms Wintour herself is, as usual, not quite the intrepid one. As the mastermind of this theatre, she appeared more like a wealthy patron on opening night than its marquee star. Or, rousing rebel. She is, of course, never a fashion radical, seeking safety in the deeply familiar—Chanel couture, and, this year, in a silhouette/look very identical to what she wore back in 2019. Still, attendees must abide by her bidding: set the scene, theatrically. As Ciara said later, “If you are not doing drama, why are you at the Met?”

References to the theatre aside, the Met Gala has more to do with films. Movie stars were also the more visible ones. The Met Gala is often referred to as the Oscars of fashion, and perhaps they aim to be. The presentation opened with host, former MTV VJ La La Anthony (in a body wrap of a LaQuan Smith dress and a ridiculous and distracting hat), speaking to the cast of the film Elvis. No one spoke at length about fashion or the theme of the night, instead they plugged the movie. So did Venus Williams, who wore a Chloe pantsuit and spoke about King Richard, the film based on her family, which won one public slapper an Academy Award. But there was no stage here and none of the evening’s hosts cracked a semblance of a joke. The evening was very safe, in more ways than one.

Quick Change

Blake Lively in two looks, Photos: Getty Images

Vogue says, “There’s a reason why Blake Lively is one of the Met Gala’s co-hosts this year. She never fails to wow on the red carpet.” And also why she keeps getting asked to come back. Ms Lively is no Tilda Swinton, and her “wow” attracts less fashion folks than those shopping for a prom dress. Yet, she has been the embodiment of the dressed-up Met turn-out. This year, she bettered herself with a change of look that simply involved the (assisted) releasing of a massive bow affixed to her hip. The Versace Atelier dress, inspired by the architecture of New York and engineering feat, the Statue of Liberty, as Ms Lively said, went from mostly copper bling to the bluish-green that the metal becomes when oxidation strikes, at a mere unfurling of that bow. Despite the quick-change finesse, modernity, as usual, escaped her.

Jordan Roth in two looks. Photos: Getty Images

But Blake Lively would be outdone. Theatre producer Jordan Roth may not be really known on our red dot, but after this Met Gala, he may be well remembered. Mr Roth, who has appeared mostly on-theme in past Met Galas, showed up in a Gothic Thom Browne construct: On top, a quirky black coat that appeared to be made to resemble a misshapen stereo speaker, complete with what could be the cone and diaphragm! At one point, he allowed the tented outer to slip down his lithe body, and it became a floor-length skirt. Then he stepped out of it, and that top-turned-bottom just sat there, waiting for the wearer’s re-entry! Was it a decompression chamber of sort as well?

Gold Slips

Golden girls. Khloe Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, and Sara Sampaio. Photos: Shutterstock, Getty Images, and Shutterstock respectively

Frankly, Kim Kardashian’s appearance—she was the last to hit the red carpet—was a much-larger-than-anyone’s-dress disappointment. After last year’s face-and-body-obscuring, red-carpet-negating anti-fashion of Balenciaga’s making, her subtle gold slip was not quite the daring we associate with her. Donning the Jean-Louis dress that Marilyn Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 was not a major reveal either, since the press had already reported, three days ago, that she spied the piece at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! museum in Orlando, Florida. And was determined to wear it, so much so that she revealed on the red carpet to La La Anthony that she had to lose 16 pounds (or 7.25kg) by totally avoiding sugar and carbs to get into it. Excited fans called it an “iconic” dress. On Ms Monroe at that time, it was; on the SKIMS creator for the duration she was on the red carpet, it wasn’t.

Curiously, sister Khloe Kardashian, a Met Gala first-timer (“following years of snubs”), wore a gold Moschino dress that looked similar to the elder sibling’s. And just as sheer. It is not known if the sisters (all of them, including the matriarch Kris Jenner, were there) discussed earlier what would be worn, but it was revealed that the ex-Mrs West was ensconced in a “secret” dressing room, even when, by then, her dress was not so hush-hush anymore. On the same beat, too, was the Portuguese model Sara Sampaio, in a slinky Michael Kors, with cut-outs to reveal her taut waist, making the Kardashian sisters look unnaturally and uncharacteristically conservative.

Brighter Brights

The bright brigade: Sebastian Stan, Gwen Stefani, Kiki Layne. Photos: Getty Images

It is hard to link neon with the gilded, but there it was—a blindingly bright green. It is not, however, J Balvin’s hair we are referring to, but the two-piece gown Gwen Stefani chose. A Vera Wang creation, it came with a cautiously shaped bra-top, as if to prevent the insecurity that afflicted Nicki Minaj. If there was one colour that kept popping up through the night, it was hot pink: SZA in Vivienne Westwood, actresses Kiki Layne and Ashley Park in Prabal Gurung, model Anok Yai in Michael Kors, and the many more Anna Wintour would no doubt know. But it was the Valentino pink of the brand’s recent season that appeared repetitive: Sebastian Stan (white tie, really?), Jenna Ortega (with leggings!), Glenn Close (escorted by Pierpaolo Piccioli), and Nicola Peltz (escorted by her husband Brooklyn Beckham). Fortunately, the Met decorators did not go with a fuchsia carpet this year.

Wedding Whites

Walking down the aisle or red carpet? Kylie Jenner, Miranda Kerr, Emma Stone. Photos: Getty Images

It’s always baffling when women appearing on a red carpet would want to look like a bride. Or, in the case of Emma Stone, a bridesmaid or flower girl. Ms Stone is often quite a red carpet eye candy, even if she is not usually a standout. But this time, afraid of outshining the brides (how did she know there would be at least one?), she chose a bland Louis Vuitton slip. Because conspicuous had to be Kylie Jenner? The cosmetic mogul wore her friend, the late Virgil Abloh’s work for Off-White: a bridal number with a bustier-dress over a sheer T-shirt. Really. Perhaps this was a bride off to a Calabasas wedding? And what about Miranda Kerr? Her Oscar de la Renta princess-bride dress was all audition-ready for the next Disney movie.

Falling Bustiers

Nicki Minaj and Nicole Peltz Beckham. Photos: Shutterstock

They did not amount to a wardrobe malfunction (at least not on the red carpet), but they looked uncomfortable, and they made for uncomfortable viewing. Nicki Minaj’s boobs appeared so very on the verge of popping out with every pose, at every turn that it was a wonder she had not screamed by the time she reached the top of the stairs. She revealed to La La Anthony that the reason she had to yank her Burberry dress up was “because they made the cup size a little too small”. Even that massive belt, presumably to keep the bodice up, was of no help. No idea why, even with the fact of the misfortune, she would not find something else to wear. Nicole Peltz was moderately better off. The newly-minted Mrs Beckham had on a sheer Valentino dress, with a scooped bustier neckline that was similar to model Quannah Chasinghorse’s by the largely jewellery-focused Antelope Women Designs. Although the former stayed more or less in place, it looked threateningly collapsible. Unsurprising that she clung on to her husband Brooklyn. Might she have worn a safer dress if her mother-in-law made it?

Heads Wrapped

Janelle Monae, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Precious Lee, Lily Aldridge. Photos: Getty Images

Just in case someone cracked an ill-placed GI Jane joke? Or was the air-conditioning in the museum too strong? The choice to have the head wrapped is an odd one. Both Janelle Monae and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, in Ralph Lauren and Moschino respectively, wore rather similar-looking gowns, with halter necks and fitted, decorated hoods. Hard to say if they were inspired by synchronised swimmers or Joan of Arc. Interestingly, Ms Monae, while choosing to conceal her hair, did not hide her underarm tuft, confirming that such exposure is a very real trend, on the red carpet too. She confidently described her look as “gilded glamour from the future”. Precious Lee, in Althuzara, was on the contrary, more of the present; she did, in fact, look like the minute she ditched the sheer frock, she’d join a swim team. And then there was Lily Aldridge, dressed by her friend Cate Holstein of the “classic American sportswear” brand Khaite. Ms Aldridge sported a crystal embellished babushka to match her dress-and-train. Whether that was a statement pertaining to women of a certain nation at war with a neighbour, it was hard to say.

Oh, No!

Their own thing. (Clockwise from top left): Tommy Dorfman, Conan Gray, Odell Beckham Jr., Joe Jonas, Evan Mock, Cara Delevingne. Photos: Getty Images

It is never easy to guess why people choose to wear what they wear. After all, fashion consumers are encouraged to dress as they please, sans constraints personal or societal. So, we won’t start a worst-dresses list. Still, it has to be said that it’s ridiculous to wear a massive, floor-length puffer coat to a gala, as Gigi Hadid, in Versace, did, but is it not even worse to go rather topless to an event that celebrates clothes? Cara Delevingne wore something we can’t quite make out: did she even have anything on, other than body paint and large pasties, and the surprisingly modest Dior pants? Those who did not dare bare that much, chose cut-outs, such as Tommy Dorfman’s Christopher Kane dress with a bodice full of holes. And if you must feel cloth on your skin, but the nipples must not be completely obscured, perhaps Conan Gray, in a Valentino shirt-and-cape, had something going for him? Did he and Ms Hadid receive the same invite?

It is understandable that sports people want the ultimate comfort in what they wear to the point that even on the red carpet, they can’t part with what’s familiar to them. American footballer Odell Beckham Jr brought field side to museum steps in a Cactus Plant Flea Market velvet hoodie, made more expensive-looking with massive amount of jewellery. Joe Jonas, brother of Nick, pinched some poor bride’s (another one?) lace veil to lengthen his cropped Louis Vuitton jacket, leaving him looking neither bride nor groom. The most curious of the night is a suit of very un-evening persuasion. Model/actor/skateboarder Evan Mock wore one by Head of State. It has a cropped jacket with a scooped front that ended in the middle, above the crotch, shaped like a stomacher. Perhaps, he and Gigi Hadid received the same invite. Both of them had that torso-lengthening extension.

Fashion First

Standouts (clockwise from top left): Isabelle Boemeke, Renate Reinsve, Louisa Jacobson, Emma Chamberlain, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Christine Baranski. Photos: Getty Images

Thankfully there were those who tried harder. And they were the proverbial palate-cleansers. Brazilian model Isabelle Boemeke wore a delightful Noir Kei Ninomiya gilet and dress that were equal parts hardcore Goth and romantic flou. Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve looked statuesque in a cropped Louis Vuitton top that could have been a pair of soften cathedral roofs draped over her shoulders. Star of HBO’s The Gilded Age Louisa Jacobson (an ideal invitee?), in Schiaparelli Couture, redefined the mermaid gown with one that was sheer and with the tail of tulle cropped to the level of her shin. Also redefining the ages—Gilded?—was Emma Chamberlain in a very cropped Miu Miu-esque cream Louis Vuitton jacket and a clean-lined white skirt.

Taking a more androgenous route was Christine Baranski in Thom Browne. Under her sequinned caped-jacket was a white corset-shirt that possibility tempered the sum effect of what could have been a tad too masculine, too white-tie. Conversely, the most bo chap (don’t care) look, but with incredible attitude was Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Bottega Veneta white shirt-and ‘jeans’ (in leather!) combo that saluted the influential American style invention Casual Friday. But something extra did not: Red opera gloves! Now, there is there a touch of glamour, even if not gilded.

Update (4 May 2022, 9.20am): As it turned out, Emma Stone actually wore something from her own wedding! According to Louis Vuitton, the house “specially designed (the dress) for her wedding after-party”

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