It’s a costume party all right.
Fiery headdresses, dragon-embroidered evening jackets, glam pajamas and Foo Dog clutch purses … attendees at Monday night’s Metropolitan Museum of Art gala in New York City are putting the "costume" in Costume Institute.
The theme is “China: Through the Looking Glass,” which has many guests dressing in East Asian-influenced garb. Among those who have walked the red carpet are Sarah Jessica Parker in a custom H&M gown and a Philip Treacy headdress that makes it look like her head is aflame, Anne Hathaway in a Ralph Lauren hooded gold lame gown out of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Diane Kruger in a wacky-but-wonderful crystal bustier and see-through white lace pants ensemble by Chanel. And what about Beyonce, barely covered in crystal appliques by Givenchy? (I mean, why bother getting dressed at all?) Through the looking glass indeed -- a night of the undressed and the overdressed.
Two birds of different feathers, Lady Gaga’s Balenciaga rose velvet net evening coat, hand-embroidered with black rhinestones and 14,000 sheared feathers, is inspired by a traditional Chinese opera gown, while Keri Russell’s Altuzarra gown, of emerald and iridescent blue feathers, is inspired by Marlene Dietrich in the 1932 film “Shanghai Express.”
Kendall Jenner is in a jade green crystal lace-up getup by Calvin Klein, and sister Kim Kardashian is wearing Peter Dundas’ first gown for Italian luxury house Roberto Cavalli, where he was appointed artistic director last month. Less gown than nude, Kardashian is artfully covered in white crystal embroidery, as if applied by hand on those famous curves.
And Jennifer Lopez gave Kardashian a run for the evening’s best undressed prize, wearing a barely-there, red Versace gown exposing a new part of the anatomy, not side-boob, but side-butt.
Solange Knowles took the Chinese inspiration in a more avant-garde direction, choosing a circular fan-dress by British designer Giles Deacon. And Justin Bieber took it in a glitzy guy direction, wearing an evening jacket embroidered with gold dragons by his pal Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.
Rihanna made the grandest entrance of all, wearing a yellow embroidered and fur-trimmed cape so sweepingly huge, it required several train-handlers to help her down the red carpet. It was designed by Guo Pei, one of the most famous fashion designers in China. For an event about how the West interprets the Chinese aesthetic, she was one of the few to wear a look by a Chinese designer. Kudos to her.
Still, it all seems to be trying SO hard, it hurts.
Which is why perhaps my favorite look of all is Vogue editor Grace Coddington wearing printed silk evening pajamas. How truly, effortlessly chic, which is East to West the opposite of the whole affair.
Previous Met gala themes have included punk and superheroes but never anything so potentially controversial as how Eastern design has been, ahem, interpreted by Western culture.
The event coincides with the opening of, “Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film and Fashion,” an exhibition on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Aug. 15, a joint effort between the museum’s Costume Institute and the Department of Asian Art.
The exhibition explores the influence of Chinese aesthetics on the West, juxtaposing high fashion by Dior, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Jeanne Lanvin and others, with traditional Chinese costumes, porcelains and art as well as film clips.
Among L.A.’s contributions to the exhibition are a 1934 gown made by Paramount Studios Costume Designer Travis Banton for Chinese-American actress Anna May Wong, and two blue-and-white Chinese porcelain-inspired dresses by Rodarte designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy.