Met Gala 2016: A sea of silver, a flock of feathers and a field of flowers

Zoe Saldana arrives at the 2016 Met Gala.
(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Image)

Kim Kardashian West probably spoke for far more of her fellow Met Gala attendees on Monday than would care to admit it when she synopsized the look she was going for to an E! Entertainment reporter as, “Blingy, sexy robot.”

The theme of this year’s gala, and the soon-to-open exhibition it’s celebrating, is Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology, and Kardashian West rose to the occasion with a body-hugging Balmain gown, silver in color and intricate of design. Husband Kanye also busted out the Balmain – in the form of a bedazzled-to-encrusted denim jacket worn with a pair of jeans with a gaping hole in the left knee. Others enlisting in the robot chic Balmain army for the evening included Jourdan Dunn, Cindy Crawford and Met Gala first-timer Kylie Jenner.

For the Record
May 12, 7:53 p.m.:
This post misspells Philipp Plein’s first name as Phillip.

Zayn Malik was one of the few men to do the robot thing, opting for a custom black Versace suit with molded metal arms that could have been borrowed from a suit of armor but for the Swarovski crystal and Versace Medusa head details.


And beauty entrepreneur Julie Macklowe’s geometric silver patchwork and mirror-covered pantsuit from Phillip Plein’s fall and winter 2016 runway collection definitely gets our vote for most enthusiastic embrace of the cyber chic aesthetic -- as well as an honorable mention for touching off a flurry of social media posts that paired her picture with C-3PO’s.

Gala co-chair Taylor Swift was also among all the silver ladies, hitting the red carpet like some sort of Goth cheerleader from the future in a silvery snakeskin-textured, side-baring Louis Vuitton mini-dress with black leather accents, black gladiator sandals and dark lipstick to complete the look. Rita Ora’s look was a decidedly softer take on the trend. The singer chose a custom, platinum-colored trumpet silhouette Vera Wang gown festooned with hand-placed, sculptural metallic feathers that easily made her look one of the evening’s most memorable.

Ora’s gown actually keyed into another of the evening’s big takeaway trends: feather accents and embellishments. Others in that fashion flock included Saoirse Ronan, who wore a custom Christopher Kane gown of ivory silk with a puff of pink, white and black plumage around the neckline and atop her right shoulder, offset by a whimsical embroidered butterfly fluttering near her left hip; and Zoe Saldana, who arrived in a gorgeous strapless Dolce & Gabbana gown that gets our vote for the evening’s most impressive, thanks to a majestically multicolored feather-embellished train trailing her that managed to evoke a field of wildflowers, a flock of peacocks and a floor full of confetti all at once.

Saldana was far from the only one to embrace the flower motif. The list of those we noticed going full floral were Anna Wintour’s daughter Bee Shaffer in a custom Alexander McQueen flower sequin embroidered crepe gown; Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife, in a hand-stitched, rose-embroidered lace gown from Christopher Kane’s fall and winter 2016 collection; and Elizabeth Cordry (who, it turns out, is Shaffer’s sister-in-law) in a nude-colored gown sprouting with outsized poppy blossoms.

Based on the above looks – and the many, many more examples of intricate embroidery, super-specific sequin placement and strategic cutouts that came down the carpet – it’s easy to assume that, for those who weren’t going for “blingy, sexy robot,” dressing for the theme of fashion meets technology meant making the robots do all the incredibly beautiful but horribly time-consuming sequin and embroidery work.


That said, there were a few outfits that really went above and beyond in mining the motif. Lady Gaga didn’t disappoint, turning out in an Atelier Versace gunmetal leather jacket with Swarovski crystal and silver stud embellishments inspired by a computer motherboard (so “Tron,” but yet so now) paired with a purple rubber bustier (also covered in Swarovski crystals), leather short shorts and a pair of sky-high platform heels.

On paper, Karolina Kurkova’s gown sounded like the evening’s must-see marriage of technology and fashion. Pairing the fashion skills of Marchesa with the computing power of IBM’s Watson computer, it was designed not only to light up, but to actually change color — in real-time — based on the reaction via social media. We have no doubt that, in person, the dress was impressive to watch twinkle, pulse and change colors, but it barely had time to do any of those in the blink-and-it’s-gone amount of time it crossed our TV screen.

It was a different light-up gown – this one by Zac Posen – that really caught our attention. A teaser clip of the fiber optic organza dress posted to Instagram in advance of the gala, showed a ghostly white gown framing an unidentified female shape in a darkened room. The wearer turned out to be Claire Danes and, when she eventually did hit the red carpet (in broad daylight, it’s worth noting), the teased technology was nowhere in evidence. It looked for all the world as if Danes was simply wearing an exquisitely elegant dove gray strapless ball gown, with none of the lights, wires or reported 30 battery packs required to power the dress.

For us, Posen’s creation strikes the perfect balance of fashion and technology, “manus” and “machine.” In the end, it seems, it’s not so much about looking like a blingy, sexy robot or Goth cheerleader from the future on the outside. It’s about harnessing all that power and hiding it under the hood, to turn on or off at will. And looking absolutely stunning either way.



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For more musings on all things fashion and style, follow me on Twitter @ARTschorn.


May 3, 2016, 3:41 p.m.: This article was updated to include the provenance of Julie Macklowe’s pantsuit. It is from the fall and winter 2016 Phillip Plein runway collection.