“Ethereal.” “Goddess.” “A ray of sunlight.”
Gracefully walking up the steps to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the Costume Institute Gala on Monday (local time), iconic supermodel Iman, 66, left the crowd gasping, screaming in delight and wonder as she instantly became the ‘winner’ of the night for her star-spangled spectacular.
The official fashion theme for the New York museum’s fundraiser was a morphed blend of American Independence meets a celebration of In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.
Considered fashion’s biggest night, A-list guests from music, film, TV, tech and beyond are encouraged each year to embrace the theme of the new exhibition as they showcase their style on the museum’s red-carpeted stairs.
Interpretation is everything when it comes to how they dress – and how they enter.
“Iman nailed the brief. Everyone else can go home,” wrote one of hundreds of admirers.
Wearing a massive gold-feathered headpiece, with a matching hoop-skirt cage layered over a metallic gold jumpsuit, the wife of the late rock legend David Bowie explained exactly what this Lumiere outfit meant to her when offered up by up-and-coming designer Harris Reed.
“He approached me, and then he sent me this drawing, which … I fell over,” Iman told Vogue.
“I thought it was beautiful because it really felt hopeful, a ray of light after all the darkness we felt. So I thought this was a perfect outfit for it.”
Gala overseer and editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, had the job of selecting just 400 invitees (at $40,000 a ticket), down from 1200 in a normal year.
Arriving early, and without her trademark dark sunglasses, Wintour has raised so much money for the Costume Institute over the years (with estimates up to $US200 million ($271 million) that the wing now bears her name.
With the hope that many of the outfits may one day sit behind those huge glass display cabinets, a cavalcade of athletes and veteran performers were the first to arrive in interpretive dress, followed by designers, models and politicians.
Streamed live by Vogue, actor and TV host Keke Palmer pumped up the hype with doorstop interviews, and had the job of asking just one question: “What does American fashion mean to you?”
From tributes to denim, messages of hope written on gowns and capes, to full-face coverings – there was even one guy carrying a scary green robot baby and a singer who wore a rubber-style, blue-eyed chestnut horse head mounted on her bodice (more on those later).
Here we go.
Billie Eilish, 19, went full glam in a huge nude peach ball gown.
The youngest ever co-chair of the gala (alongside Amanda Gorman, Naomi Osaka and Timothée Chalamet, who welcomed guests to the elite party), her blonde bombshell hair helped designers go a little Marilyn Monroe. But there was a catch before she agreed to go with Oscar. The New York Times reported: “Oscar de la Renta will terminate all fur sales at the urging of Ms Eilish, who is a vegan and animal rights activist.”
Four-time grand slam winner Naomi Osaka says her sister Mari designed the Koi fish-inspired bodice. As Mari tells Vogue: “The design we ended up creating speaks to our biracial heritage and in that, I believe it really celebrates who we all are and how we all play a role in the American Dream. It’s a celebration of cultures, like America itself, a melting pot of so many special and unique elements.”
Rapper Lil Nas X was all gold. And the reveal on his first red carpet was a show stopper. Underneath his gold velvet Versace cape, he revealed a C-3PO-style golden suit, and then under that, well, a slinky gold bodysuit covered in crystals. Now THIS screams America.
Gowns with messages
They say the owner of five theatres in New York, producer Jordan Roth, understands the brief every year for the Met Gala. Wearing Lydia Courteille gems and green leather platform boots, his designer gown may have mapped out every Broadway production he’s ever loved.
In case you’re wondering, the writing on Congresswoman Carolyn Bosher Maloney’s gown reads “equal rights for women”. The American politician wrote on Twitter: “Across the country, women’s rights are under attack … I have long used fashion as a force 4 change.”
Cara Delevingne told Vogue, the message is “about women empowerment … It’s a bit like stick it to the man”. She said she was inspired by female empowerment and sexuality, because highlighting individuality is what the night is all about.
Outfits with props
I know, it’s a bit out there, but who doesn’t love a green robotic child to cuddle on the green carpet? Here in Prada, singer and rapper Frank Ocean is rarely seen in public, and when he does make an appearance, he likes to let the Twitterverse speculate on why he’s “out-weirded” everyone.
Experimental musician Grimes told Vogue: “We were working with the Dune movie people,” noting that they’d planned to “hire me as a professional fan, or like, an influencer or something”, she laughs. It didn’t happen, so the unofficial look is “Dune-esque”.
LA-based German singer and songwriter Kim Petras told EOnline she was representing “all horse girls and horse humans here today” with her wild Collina Strada ensemble. She grew up riding horses.
If the shoe fits, wear it
Emmy-winning Schitt’s Creek creator and actor Dan Levy took to Instagram, revealing it was “an homage to late multimedia artist and LGBTQIA+ activist David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992)”.
Please do not wear on the vault or in the floor routine. Swapping bare feet for chunky black platform boots, US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles told Vogue wearing a 40 kilogram dress was all about “black girl magic”.
How to properly wear a face mask
Gossip Girl‘s Evan Mock, 24, wore a full leather face mask with a Thom Browne shorts suit. He took it off to show his pink hair, but whichever way we look, it was a punk rock homage.
Kim Kardashian, 40, knows how to make everyone just stop and stare. And not in a good way. From head to toe, literally in an all-black custom Balenciaga bodysuit, she was mocked on social media for looking too much like a Harry Potter dementor.
And just because this is the land of the free
Pure elegance. Supermodel Gigi Hadid, in a white high-cut Prada gown with long black leather gloves. Hadid, who is raising a daughter, Khai, 1, said: “I’ve been at the farm every day in my sweatpants and in our matching messy buns … tonight I’m showing her what it means to dress up, own it and have balance.”
Brazillian transgender model Valentina Sampaio continues to make history, and the Victoria’s Secret runway wings have come in handy.
Blondie’s Debbie Harry, 76, embraced everything that was America on Monday, wearing custom Zac Posen. The skirt resembled a tattered American flag, while she wore a fitted deep-blue denim jacket to complete the theme. Very patriotic!