How the Met Gala Delights in Shock, Starring Beyoncé, Madonna, and Katy Perry
Some of the dresses were sexy, others baffling. But the gala succeeded in reminding us that fashion should always challenge and confront—and make us smile.
It’s tempting to mock the most over-the-top looks at the annual Met Gala (see our gallery here). But were it not for moments like last year’s omelet couture (Rihanna, we missed you), New York’s premier fashion event would be a total snooze.
So while many surely thought Madonna’s tits and ass hanging out of a black, bondage-y Givenchy ensemble on Monday night was too much, most of us wouldn’t want it any other way. Beyoncé came in embroidered latex. That was glorious—a wicked combination of sexy, chic, and a mischievous play on technical innovation.
Despite the absence of a literal robot at this year’s Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, we saw a number of devil-may-care-daring interpretations of the “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” theme (this is the Met’s new major fashion exhibit), from Madge and Riccardo Tisci’s take on chaps--a reference to the therapeutic kinesiology tape she wraps around sore muscles on tour, she told Vogue--to beauty entrepreneur Julie Macklowe’s metallic-disco space suit by Philipp Plein.
The biggest takeaway of the night may be that the future is silver. Even Kim Kardashian opted for an aluminum-hued, seemingly transformer-inspired Balmain dress, she told E! News, despite knowing that silvery metallics would dominate the evening.
Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing also designed glowering husband Kanye’s outfit, a shimmery embroidered denim jacket that Kim described as a “downplayed” version of her own ensemble. Asked about his blue contact lenses, Kanye grunted: “Vibes.”
Kylie Jenner, Cindy Crawford, Jourdan Dunn, and Alessandra Ambrosio all wore similar shiny sterling looks by Balmain. Rita Ora wore a silver-grey cutout Vera Wang gown with a feather train; Brie Larson went with a tiered Proenza Schouler dress covered in silver metallic paillettes; and Kate Upton looked elegantly sexy in a glittery one-shoulder gown by Topshop.
Poppy Delevingne, one of the first to arrive at the event, set the tone for the evening in a Marchesa gown that was part flapper dress, part futuristic lady knight with chainmail embroidery.
Taylor Swift, one of the evening’s hosts, was dressed as a fembot in a short, silver-printed Louis Vuitton dress with a harness detail--an outfit that was somewhat underwhelming given her role for the night.
How odd that Swift would be so muted, while her pop nemesis Katy Perry, so long appearing to be her pop culture subordinate, emerged triumphant in an astonishingly regal Prada gown, with fabulous, sharp, tower of hair, and impeccable make-up.
And thank goodness too, for the fashion brains and bravery of Nicki Minaj and Solange Knowles. They too took the Gala invite at face value and chose genuinely challenging, expertly executed fashion that was also, well, fun. More willowy models chose gorgeous dresses, for sure, and these played with silvers and textures and looked all very pretty.
But few of these safe, and inevitably lauded pieces, confronted us as much as Solange Knowles did. And clever, shocking confrontation should be at the heart of the Met Gala evening.
There was surprisingly little wearable tech, given the night’s theme, which is why supermodel Karolina Kurkova’s stunning, battery-powered Marchesa dress--white, ultra-feminine and ethereal looking, with hand-embroidered flower petals--was one of the big showstoppers of the night, a truly magical collaboration between man and machine.
Kurkova Instagrammed a photo of her dress and asked fans to tweet at her, promising that the dress’ petals would light up in different colors to reflect their emotions. At an event celebrating innovative couture, everything else almost paled in comparison.
The kind of imagination and technical application in Kurkova’s frock, plus the sheer delight in playing dress-up, should be central to the Met Gala. More than what we see on the runway at Fashion Weeks, the possibility of fashion is at the heart of this happily demented evening.
So, thanks Beyoncé’s latex and Katy Perry’s regal bitch-queen, and Kurkova’s femme and sparkly petal lighting: you all win, and you win by reminding us, as a Met Ball should, of the pleasure that fashion at its most daring and inventive can bring.