Lessons from the Met Ball

Red carpet critics often credit the women wearing gowns with best and worst dressed awards. It feels mean spirited, and given that so many of the gowns that appeared on the Met Gala’s carpet last night were marketing devices for fashion labels, I prefer to focus on the designers who are selling their skills. And the winner is….Thom Browne.

The best looks of the evening came when designers put their own twists on the ideas that Rei Kawakubo, the subject of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s spring fashion exhibition, has put forth at her label, Comme des Garçons. Curator Andrew Bolton called the exhibit Art of the In Between, and many of my favorites took that literally. The dress code was avant garde.

Browne killed it more than once, best on Solange Knowles, whose black Thom Browne puffer gown-coat had a long train that could double as an insulated shoulder wrap on the way back up the mountain on the ski lift. Please let some fashion magazine shoot that gown flying down the slopes at Aspen this winter. Mickey Boardman, are you listening? (I realize the gown will be old news by then. Sad.)

Browne did it again on Amy Fine Collins, whose column gown was part tuxedo (and not the Le Smoking kind. This was more Groucho Marx) and part Hollywood siren in red sequins. Her black and white tuxedo shoes finished the look off. A-plus. A nod also to his tuxedo look for Lisa Love, also with the Groucho bow tie attitude, finished off with a long feather-hemmed skirt. Wink wink wink wink wink wink wink- it’s what Brown does best, with extraordinary tailoring to boot.

Mentions must go to Ralph Lauren, who put Priyanka Chopra in a look that was part gown, part trench coat. It was what Columbo would have gotten married in if he were Priyanka Chopra. 

Last night’s Met Gala supported what shouldbe one of the best-attended exhibitions of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Focussing an exhibit on a single living designer is gutsy, but when that designer is Rei Kawakubo, it’s chock full of fodder for thought and an excellent theme for the annual costume ball that precedes the spring exhibit.

Alessandro Michele did it adroitly for the Gucci gown worn by Dakota Johnson, which required a closer look to appreciate. At first glance it was a black Victorian mourning gown and almost on the dowdy side of somber. But wait, look again. The dress was constructed with huge swirly embellishments and flounces often employed in Comme des Garçons designs. Well played, @Lallo25.

For those who ignored any semblance of what the Met Ball is all about and used the red carpet solely as their personal billboard - I’m looking at you La Perla on Kendall Jenner - a fat raspberry for your #MetGall.

Kudos to the label of the evening, Comme des Garçons - worn by many including Rihanna, who managed to adroitly insert her own self with her red boots, if you can call laces boots, so the look seemed authentic. And I’m doubtful that Comme paid her to wear it (guessing here), so good on Riri for that.

One of my personal favorites was Caroline Kennedy, the former ambassador to Japan, who donned a voluminous Comme dress that was - despite her resemblance to a Weeble (they wobble but they don’t fall down) was simply spectacular. From all this we can see that one of Rei Kawakubo’s greatest contributions to fashion is the encouragement to break away from the familiar into new territory. Fearlessly.