Ladies and gentleman, unleash your hoop skirts! Big ball gowns, super-long tailcoats and a return to formalwear were on full display at Monday night's Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual Costume Institute Gala in New York City.
The Met Gala honored the late mid-century couturier Charles James, an English-born American designer known for his structured wiring and lavishly heavy gowns, and it attracted a mosaic of Hollywood heavyweights and fashion industry favorites. The benefit's guests had to channel James' formal aesthetic using a dress code (or dress suggestion) of gowns for ladies and white tie (with decorations) for men.
The annual affair's latest exhibit, "Charles James: Beyond Fashion," focuses on the so-called Great American Couturier and emphasizes technology. One section highlights the hat designs from his early work as a milliner. James' work is said to have influenced numerous modern-day designers, including Christian Dior, Michael Kors and Zac Posen.
This year's exhibit was co-chaired by Vogue's Anna Wintour, "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker and Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, among others.
Here are a few of our favorite things, and a couple that we wouldn't necessarily classify that way. As always, there were several hits, many misses and numerous "What dress code?" moments:
Is that a window on the back of your dress, SJP? Parker opted for a black and white Oscar de La Renta gown with white elbow-length gloves. And if you didn't know that her petaled gown was by the famed American designer, a large lattice pattern down the back of Parker's train pointed directly to his emblazoned red signature to clear up any confusion. Hey, at least there wasn't a mohawk headdress.
Red carpet darling Lupita Nyong'o has her first red carpet fail: The Oscar winner split the critics with her daring costume by Prada. Perhaps the actress' love of fashion finally got the best of her? The culprit: a forest green crocheted Prada ensemble complete with feathers and vintage Cartier headband. Multiple choice: Was she a) a bird? b) a palm tree? c) a flapper? d) a bedazzled net? or e) all of the above? Answer: E. Seriously, who told her this was a good idea?
Beyonce's covered-up top, sheer jelly on bottom: The "XO" singer, accompanied by husband Jay Z, went coquettish with a black veil that partially concealed her face. But the sheer lower half of her Givenchy gown reminded observers she's still "Bootylicious." Cutest thing that happened all night? Some bling fell off her outfit and her husband of six years staged a mock proposal on the red carpet to return it to her. Now that's what we call a power couple.
Johnny Depp's latest accessory is a cane: First he had a hat and glasses, then it was fiancee Amber Heard, then it was Heard's too-big engagement ring and now we won't be surprised if he incorporates the supportive walking stick into his wardrobe all the time.
Kim and Kanye redeem themselves: Sartorially, anyway. Both in Lanvin by friend Alber Elbaz, reality star Kardashian threw back to her everyday sex-kitten style in a high-slit, strapless gown. West opted for a tie-less tux. The pair definitely made up for Kardashian's couch-upholstery Givenchy atrocity from last year's gala. Pregnant or not, that outfit was just bad, bad, bad.
Janelle Monae, caped crusader: The Grammy-winning singer wore a crimson Tadashi Shoji cape over her signature white blouse and black trousers.
Hailee Steinfeld knows how to glam it up: The 17-year-old "True Grit" actress shined in an elegant black and white gown by Prabal Gurunt, keeping her her hair pulled back and her makeup fresh and simple. Vogue darling Kendall Jenner, 18, turned up the glam dial with a cream-colored trumpet gown by teen brand TopShop. They grow up so fast...
Lake Bell shows off her baby bump: The "Million Dollar Arm" star showed off her baby bump in a red gown by Tommy Hilfiger just two weeks after the Tribeca Film Festival event in which she revealed that she and husband Scott Campbell are expecting. Ain't nothin' like cupping a baby bump to say, "There's a kid in there, not lunch."
Hello, legs! Kardashian, Rita Ora, Leighton Meester, Lea Michele and Zoe Kravitz rocked high slits and let their gams do all the talking.
Sandra Lee is a fairy godmother. Or Cinderella. Or a freakish exploding love child from both. The "Semi-Homemade" host must have been channeling Cinderella's stepsisters in a gown that had tulle in the back, ruched and billowing satin in the front and mess all over. Seriously, this is the stuff wedding gown nightmares are made of. Now contrast that with...
The Beckhams -- back in a big way: Designer and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham owned the red carpet with husband David Beckham as the couple went matchy-matchy: a white column gown of her own design for the lady and a white jacket for him. And we're still not done staring at their perfection.
Bradley Cooper and Suki Waterhouse show up, but not together: The Oscar-nominated actor and his model girlfriend hit the red carpet, but not together. He wore Tom Ford, while the face of Burberry wore a blush tulle-layered Burberry Prorsum gown.
Michael Kors makes red carpet calls: The designer and "Project Runway" judge rushed to the hem of actress Zoe Saldana's tiered gown to make a last-minute adjustment. And he was photographed in the process. Kors also dressed Jessica Pare in a similar black-and-white printed number, and Victoria's Secret Angel Lily Aldridge wore one of his designs too.
Erykah Badu gives Pharrell Williams' hat a run for its money: The singer donned a tall topper by Givenchy and we're not gonna lie, we wouldn't mind seeing it on the "Happy" guy.
Taylor's secret: Taylor Swift had a wardrobe mishap just before hitting the red carpet in a blush-colored gown. "That moment when your cat casually walks up, then abruptly ATTACKS your custom satin Oscar de la Renta gown during your fitting for Met Ball," she tweeted before the event. Eek. It turns out pal and VS Angel Karlie Kloss, also in De la Renta, got ready with the country crooner and they had a dance party.
Nicole Richie -- this side of purple hair: Now pair that with side boob and sheer panels down the entire side. Need we say more? Well, sure, she wore Donna Karan.
Jake Gyllenhaal and sister Maggie Gyllenhaal get snuggly: Yeah, the sibling PDA was pretty much adorable.
Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady return: The latest edition of how to be rich, flawless and fabulous. Plus they smooched in public.
Kate Upton can't make this medicine go down: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model had some weird "Mary Poppins" thing going on with her black trumpet gown and inexplicable headpiece from Dolce & Gabbana. Why, why, why?!
Brie Larson is a risk-taker: Not everyone can pull off a heavily beaded golden tunic and matching pants quite like she can. The look came via Prada. Gabrielle Union took a similar approach with a bedazzled crop top and matching midi-skirt, also from the Italian fashion house.
Katie Holmes: Marigold banana, or Belle from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"? That is all.
Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka love costumes! And so it was demonstrated when the "How I Met Your Mother" star donned a cummerbund as tall as a corset and Burtka took argyle to a whole 'nother level in a head-to-toe patterned tux. Built-in cape-tails sold separately.
Top o' the mornin', Carmelo Anthony: The basketball star, accompanied by wife Lala Vazquez, donned a topper and tails and we must say, we fancy the look.
Crop tops galore: Emma Stone, Anne Hathaway, Gabrielle Union, Rihanna and Cara Delevingne all partially bared their bellies (or lack thereof) for the occasion.
Who are you wearing? She's right next to me! Stars often pose at the gala with their costume designer, and British designer Stella McCartney was able to round up a few A-listers -- Reese Witherspoon, Kate Bosworth, Cara Delevingne -- for her red carpet photo op.
Also setting off cute-couple alerts: Actress Blake Lively and hubby Ryan Reynolds hit the red carpet together, as did "Homeland" star Claire Danes and husband Hugh Dancy; singer John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, "Breaking Bad's" Bryan Cranston and wife Robin Dearden, Oscar nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor and wife Sari Mercer, comedian Sarah Silverman and beau Michael Sheen, actor Eddie Redmayne and his girlfriend Hannah Bagshaw, Ed Burns and Christy Turlington, Hugh Jackman and wife Deborra Lee Furness, Jim Parsons and boyfriend Todd Spiewak, "Amazing Spider-Man 2" duo Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield, Seth Meyers and his wife, Alexi Ashe, and Charlize Theron and Sean Penn. Ed Norton also made a rare red carpet appearance with wife Shauna Robertson.
Karolina Kurkova brings the 'tude. And the volume: The model wore a voluminous, structured floral gown by Marchesa and rocked that red carpet like it was the only runway in the world. (And not much else besides that gown fits in the world).
Rosie Huntington-Whitely didn't get the memo: Or so we think. The "Transformers" actress was one of the few who wore a short dress on the red carpet. To be fair: The leather, leopard and gladiator-like pleats definitely made a loud statement. Lena Dunham, Lea Michele, Michelle Williams and Elizabeth Olsen also went with knee-baring frocks.
The red carpet parade also included Rachel McAdams, Anna Kendrick, Zoe Saldana, Idina Menzel, Shailene Woodley, Emmy Rossum, Allison Williams, Katie Couric, Benedict Cumberbatch, Matt Bomer, Dakota Johnson, Diane Kruger, Cobie Smulders, Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Dianna Agron, Sarah Paulson, Amy Adams, Rashida Jones, Zooey Deschanel, Hayden Panettiere, Shaun White, Kristen Wiig, Kristen Stewart, Kate Mara, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Frank Ocean, Florence Welch, Kristen Dunst, Marion Cotillard and Olivia Munn, among many others.
Someone who was noticeably absent? Gwyneth Paltrow consciously uncoupled with the annual bash. Last year, the GOOP founder basically bashed the punk-themed high-fashion affair and claimed she'd never go again. This year, her rep said she would "not be in New York and is unable to attend the ball," Radar Online reported Monday.
On Monday morning, fashionable First Lady Michelle Obama joined a bevy of designers, including Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Michael Kors, Diane von Furstenberg, Donatella Versace, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren, to inaugurate the museum's new $40-million costume center: the Anna Wintour Costume Center, named after the Vogue editrix herself, according to the Associated Press.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times