Sunday, May 11, 2014

Met Gala Attendees Meet their Match & Miss the Memo

This year's Costume Institute Gala, known to you and me informally as the Met Ball - or Met Gala, was the highlight of what had to be an incredible day for Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. Having chaired the gala since 1995, Wintour could be forgiven if she was on "auto-pilot" for the annual fundraiser (which last year raised over $9 million dollars for the Costume Institute, with a ticket price of $15,000 per person.)

However, she was definitely NOT calling this one in. This year held the promise of something different, something exclusive. . .something special. An honour was to be bestowed upon the fashion maven this year: the opening of the $40 million Anna Wintour Costume Center (the new name for the Costume Institute). First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony held earlier on the day of the ball.

For 2014, a theme was chosen (Charles James: Beyond Fashion), a guest list was prepared, and ticket prices were set- at $25,000

There was speculation as to why Wintour increased the ticket price by $10,000 per ticket. Was it because Gwyneth Paltrow complained about crowds and heat at the 2013 event? Was Wintour tired of the attitude today's celebrities have about exclusive events - having once banned Kim Kardashian from the gala? Was the Vogue editor's generation gap showing?

Who knows?

(Reality check: How much do you spend when you and your partner go out on a special night - anniversary, Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve? Maybe a fundraiser to benefit an animal shelter? $100? $500? Maybe $1000 if it's important to both of you. Compare that to $50,000 for two for a cocktail party and dinner. Of course, it IS a fundraiser - for fashion. See mention of $40 million costume center above. Ahem.)
To add to the high-fashion feel Ms. Wintour desired, fashion rules were also set for attendees: White tie. There aren't many occasions that call for white tie these days, but the chairperson had spoken. The problem?


It had to be. So many didn't listen - or didn't look it up. "White tie" is the most formal attire one can wear. Emily Post outlines it better than I can:

Men                                                  Women
White Tie
  • Black tailcoat, matching trousers with a single stripe of satin or braid in the US; two stripes in Europe or the UK
  • white piqué wing-collared shirt with stiff front
  • white vest
  • white-colored (e.g., mother of pearl) studs and cufflinks
  • white bow tie
  • white or gray gloves
  • black patent shoes and black dress socks
  • Formal (floor length) evening gown

Charles James, the honoree of the event, is considered "America's First Couturier" - and was known for a level of style and elegance that focused on structure and precision, with sculptural ball gowns and an attention to detail and cutting fabric that transcended the traditional method of designing garments according to season.
With "white tie" and Charles James in mind, it's easy to see who DID get the memo:

Benedict Cumberbatch, pictured here with designer Tom Ford. While Tom looks like a modern man of means, Benedict appears timeless. Both are good examples, but readers of this site know what they like:

Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
Anna Wintour was gracious in her praise of Benedict, whom she met and befriended when he starred in "Frankenstein" at the National Theatre in London. Given that his performance in the play (depending on the night) would give her ample opportunity to size him up in various stages of dress, I'll agree with her assessment: He nailed it.

These men? Ms. Wintour cannot say the same for you. She might be tempted to nail you to the wall with a stiletto instead.

"White tie" does NOT mean:

Photo by Richard Young/Rex
"White tie" does not mean white jacket. In addition, "white tie" does not mean - my apologies if this comes as a shock - BLACK tie.  Please. You're married to a world-famous clothing designer. Don't let this happen again. (Victoria Beckham got it right - even if she does look like she's ready for a toga party. Charles James focused on style in structured gowns. Was Victoria inspired by the symmetry in a roll of paper towel?)

Ms. Wintour would not approve of THIS:
Photo by REX
Photo by REX
Joshua Jackson wore a white tie, so that's an upgrade from Beckham, but the rest? His jacket appears to be inside out, and it clashes with Diane Kruger's silver gown. While Victoria chose paper towel, Diane added a bit of shimmer by opting to represent aluminum foil.

Oh. No. Anna would certainly not approve of THIS, either:
Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Jay Z, did you work security at the Met Gala? Why else are you wearing a jacket that doesn't fit? To coordinate with the pants that weren't tailored? (I also hate to bring this up AGAIN, but a black tie is, to be matter-of-fact, the OPPOSITE of white tie.) I'm pretty sure the Beygency won't come after you if you dress appropriately for a fundraiser requiring formal wear. I don't even know where to begin with your wife's creation, except to say the fabric looks as though it could scratch non-stick cookware. OUCH.

And the women? Don't even. Remember that white tie for women, as defined by Emily Post, means a formal, floor length evening gown. Not cocktail dress. Not mini-dress. Not a pantsuit with CAPE. Oh, and did I mention? NOT PANTS.

Here are my Top 5 Worst Dressed from the Met Gala (aka - the Benedict Cumberbatch Kitchen Collection)

Maggie Gyllenhaal channels Mrs. Roper from Three's Company (your housekeeper). Come and knock on her door, then play Twister.
Photo by Erik Pendzich/Rex
Photo by Erik Pendzich/Rex

Rita Ora takes the wings from Stevie Knicks ("What a lovely holiday tablecloth! However do you get cranberry sauce stains out?")
David Fisher/Rex Features
Photo by David Fisher/Rex Features

Kate Upton as the Ghost of Carmen Miranda (bonus hairnet when you clean the ceiling fans)
Photo by David Fisher/REX
Photo by David Fisher/REX

Finally, Lupita Nyong'o as the New Cher (your flapper feather duster)
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

I realize there will always be more important matters to discuss or world events to command our attention, but I admit that if I were Anna Wintour, and the Costume Institute were renovated and renamed in my honour, and the First Lady came to speak at the opening, I too, would have high standards. If I chose to celebrate a designer known for sophistication and structured style - and, as a result, set the most formal and fashion-conscious dress code for a party for which I RAISED THE TICKET PRICE by $10,000, you better show up looking as picture perfect as you did at ANY Vanity Fair Oscar Party in the past 5 years. Don't even leave your room wearing something that looks like a designer's experiment in the suburbs with Boone's Farm, retro TV and pork rinds.

Let's try this again at the Oscars, shall we?

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