Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The 2011 Met Costume Institute Gala

Film premieres and award ceremonies are excellent red carpet opportunities for film stars and celebrities, but the Met Gala is the event of the season for true fashionistas. Designers, models, stylists and historians fly in to New York from all over the world to be received by Anna Wintour, left, editor of US Vogue.

The Costume Institute contains more than 80,000 costumes and accessories. It used to have a permanent gallery space in what was known as the 'basement area' of the Met, however, due to the fragile nature of the items in the collection the Costume Institute does not maintain a permanent installations. Instead, every year it holds two separate shows organized around famous designers such as Cristóbal Balenciaga, Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent as well as style doyennes such as Diana Vreeland, Nan Kempner and Iris Apfel.

The Costume Institute's annual benefit gala, co-chaired by Anna Wintour, is an extremely popular - if exclusive - event in the fashion world; in 2007, the 700 available tickets started at $6,500 per person.

This year the gala coincided with an exhibition on late designer Alexander McQueen, curated by Andrew Bolton (see photo above). Guests were greeted by a receiving line of actor Colin Firth, designer Stella McCartney, and Vogue editor—and gala organizer—Anna Wintour. Suzy Menkes wrote a very interesting review of the exhibition for the New York Times, read it here.

Now to the dresses! There were some fabulous outfits (and some real turkeys) but I've compiled some images of the best ones... specifically those which are vintage-inspired or chime with a certain vintage look.

First up is Isabel Lucas, wearing a 1970s-style coral pleated maxi gown by Louis Vuitton. What a great face.

Also working a strong 1970s look was Florence Welch, wearing a white gown with bell sleeves by Yves Saint Laurent. Have you noticed how Flo doesn't smile much for photos anymore?

This girl always gets it right: Margherita Missoni. She has a beautiful face and a very fresh look - just like Ali MacGraw. Here she is in Missoni:

Also channeling a vaguely 1970s vibe was hostess Anna Wintour. I really didn't expect her to wear something like this! It's Chanel haute couture...

Here comes Iman to show us all how it's really done. A vision of 1970s disco perfection in a bronze sequin jumpsuit by Stella McCartney:

Jennifer Lopez glammed it up with a red silk gown with feather shrug by Gucci. We don't really get to see her wear this colour very often - it looks fantastic and much better than her usual beige or black choices. She's still Jenny from the block though... the girl can't resist baring her midriff!

Working back through the decades, there were a couple of dresses that were very 1960s in style. Fashion icon Sarah Jessica Parker wore a fabulous embellished maxi gown, complete with beehive hairstyle. Here is a photograph taken in her dressing room before she arrived at the event. Do I spy an empty bottle of Veuve Clicquot in the background? It's a blessed relief to know she's just like us and enjoys a few jars before going out on the town.

Here we have Bee Shaffer, Anna Wintour's daughter. She wore a very grown-up gown by Balenciaga, featuring a 'watteau' train that was a very popular feature for evening dresses in the 1960s. She looks great but it doesn't feel right for May - do you agree?

Next we have one of my favourite dresses of the evening: model Jessica Stam in a petal-pink tulle gown. The silhouette and fabric are typical of 1950s evening dresses, but the hem and accessories give the look a modern twist.

Actress Dakota Fanning wore a sensational couture gown by Valentino. This is a really elegant dress with exquisite flower details, but I think she needed a more sophisticated hair and make-up look to carry it off.

As usual, Salma Hayek was a vision. She was one of the honorary chairs of the Met Gala this year. We sold a dress very similar to this one a couple of months ago - it was so beautiful it didn't even make it on to the website as it was snapped up by a girl who came in to the studio before I had chance to upload it. It had exactly the same rose detail on the hip but was in a very pale apple silk chiffon, instead of the blush tone Salma's wearing.

There were quite a few guests working a strong 1940s look. One of them was Nicole Richie, with a Lana Turner hairstyle and a gown by Jason Wu:

Diane Kruger also wore Jason Wu. The embellished bodice is superb - but I wonder whether the skirt would work better without such a big slit?

Next up: Madge! I thought this was the best she has looked in ages. Not only does the colour work very well on her, but only a real fashion icon could carry off a star-embroidered train at an event like this. She's pop royalty and she won't let you forget it! Dress by Stella McCartney:

Here is Lucy Liu in one of my favourite designers, Vionnet. Her dress isn't particularly 1930s (in fact the hairstyle is definitely 1960s) but I wanted to mention the design house as their history is fascinating.

Madame Vionnet (1876-1975) was known as 'queen of the bias cut' and specialized in Grecian goddess-style gowns. Eschewing corsets, padding and anything that distorted the natural curves of a woman's body, her clothes were famous for accentuating the natural female form. Influenced by the modern dances of Isadora Duncan, Vionnet created designs that showed off a woman's natural shape. Like Duncan, Vionnet was inspired by ancient Greek art, in which garments appear to float freely around the body rather than distort or mold its shape.

Here's a wonderfully atmospheric picture of two models (the one of the left is Marion Morehouse a.k.a. Mrs e e cummings) wearing her designs. Photograph by Edward Steichen.

Actress Amy Poehler does a fine Jean Harlow impression with her J Mendel 1930s-style gown and hairstyle:

Here we have one of my favourite dresses of the evening: Maggie Gyllenhaal in Stella McCartney. The silhouette and draping is very 1930s but the blue sparkle gives it a 1970s disco twist. Maggie always looks so happy and relaxed - here she looks utterly serene. I guess the army candy helps.

Karen Elson looked sensational in a gold evening gown by McQueen. The silhouette of the dress is quite 1930s, but the fabric and shredded hem make it unmistakably contemporary. This sort of juxtaposition is signature McQueen.

And finally, here we have model Chanel Iman wearing a white embellished shift by Dolce & Gabbana. This was another of my favourites looks from the evening. It's quite hard to pull off high-octane glamour in a short, pale dress (especially when you're surrounded by guests in floor-length gowns) but she manages it!

Look at her beautiful 1920s hairstyle in this shot. Left to right: Chanel, Bar Rafaeli and Isabeli Fontana.

Whenever there is a big event involving beautiful dresses on a red carpet, we tweet photos in real time on our Twitter account - if you want to follow us please click on this link.

We love your comments so please do let us know whose dress you liked the best - or if you think we missed anyone out!

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