Notes on the Costume Institute Exhibition

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

Shala Monroque in Prada & Delfina Delettrez brooch
(Photos:, & Randy Brooke)

During the course of the press conference on Monday, Thomas P. Campbell, the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art promised the Costume Institute Ball would be the “most spectacular” in the museum’s history. It certainly lived up to the hype and was more high profile than ever, subjected to more press and media coverage than in past years, and boasted a first ever live video streaming made possible by Jeff Bezos and While I think enough has been said about it, I still want to add my two cents.

To say the Red Carpet on this night is not your average, run-of-the-mill Red Carpet, is an understatement. This is not only “fashion’s biggest night” (as everyone likes to say), but the entire event represents fashion at its highest pinnacle. It is attended by some of the biggest stars on the planet, not to mention those from fashion’s constellations. As for the latter, this is a group that is well-informed and knowledgeable, and one expects more than just another parade of predictable, clone like, garden-variety, borrowed gowns — formfitting or fishtail  — varying only in their necklines and color. In other words, the kind one normally sees at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes. etc. Boring!

Farida Khelfa in vintage Schiaparelli

Given the subjects being honored are two strong, influential, innovative, rule breaking women (Schiaparelli and Prada), and their unique perspectives on fashion, I was hoping to see more of that glorious subversion reflected in the choices made by many invited guests. Specifically, those who really did their fashion homework and had enough creativity and moxie to put this to good use. (Let’s just say that my ‘best dressed’ list varies from most others and does not include the same names you are likely to see elsewhere). I was not looking for stars but for fashion individuals who did not look like anyone else. And especially, for those channeling the late Schiaparelli, who up until now has been under the radar for most people outside of fashion. However, this is  about to change thanks to the exhibition and to Diego Della Valle, who is reviving the label. By the way, he arrived with Farida Khelfa who looked fabulous in a vintage Schiaparelli red chiffon gown, worn beneath a black leather biker jacket.

Lizzie Tisch in Mary Katrantzou

Among those opting for something in trompe l’oeil (a Schiap signature): Lizzie Tisch in Mary Katrantzou,, Diane von Furstenberg in her own creation, and Lauren Santo Domingo in a white Oscar de la Renta gown, covered with black trompe l’oel bows.

Karlie Koss in Jason Wu with Jason Wu

A few opted to pay homage to the late designer by wearing something in shocking pink (her signature hue). Hamish Bowles chose a shocking pink Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo; Dee Oclepo wore a shocking pink gown (designed by hubby Tommy Hilfiger); Karlie Kloss looked gorgeous in a shocking pink and black lace gown by Jason Wu; and one duo, designer Chris Benz and Julie Maclowe, dyed their hair shocking pink. Since Schiaparelli was known for her elaborate embroidery,

Biana Brandolini d’Adda in Dolce & Gabbana

I was happy to see Bandolini d’Adda’s amazing Dolce & Gabbana gold embroidered floor length cape and matching dress. And, just in terms of over-the -top visual eye candy, it was hard not to notice the glorious Giovanna Battaglia in a Dolce & Gabbana colorful floral gown with a shocking pink satin headpiece. It reminded me of something Anna Della Russo would wear. By the way, where was Anna Della Russo when we needed her?

Linda Fargo in custom Naeem Khan

But hands down, my favorite was Linda Fargo (who said she “always loves a good theme”). She wore a custom-made black velvet Naeem Khan cape elaborately embroidered with gold, thrown over a shocking pink gown and accessorized perfectly with black evening gloves that had gold embroidered finger nails (her favorite Schiaparelli touch, as she put it). Her other accessories included birdcage earrings and an oversized diamante 40’s costume jewelry pin watch, which she attached to a little satin evening bag.  In addition, her cape perfectly mimicked the black velvet embroidered Schiaparelli cape which is in the exhibition.

Carey Mulligan in Miuccia Prada

Among those in Miuccia Prada camp who looked fabulous were co-host Carey Mulligan in an ultra modern and youthful knee-length dress entirely covered in oversized gold and silver pailletes; Angela Lindvall, in a sleeveless, ankle length geometric coat dress with prim white collar; Mia Wasikowska, in a ruby short sleeved long gown with fitted waist (the prim collar and waistband entirely covered in black beads);

Chloe Sevigny in Miu Miu

Chloe Sevigny in a very short and very mod Miu Miu mini dress that was covered with mirrors and was almost all see-through. (she wore it over what looked like a black bikini and, I must say that not too many could get away with it, but she did!); Shala Monroque in a divine knee-length draped jersey Prada dress accessorized with a one-of-a-kind crustacean brooch by Deflina Delettrez (or was it a big insect of some sort —  I guess you could say it was a mix of Prada with a touch of Schiaparelli?).While I usually think Gwyneth Paltrow can do no wrong, I did not especially love her short Prada dress (too short perhaps?). As for Anna Wintour, while I liked the white custom made Prada gown with an embroidered lobster (an homage to Schiaparelli and Dali), I hated the matronly white fox stole she wore at the start of the Red Carpet. Enough of the fur already Anna. I know it was cool on Monday but it’s almost summer. You don’t have to give PETA more reason to hate you.

Mia Wasikowska in Prada

For the record, I disliked Sarah Jessica Parker’s Valentino Haute Couture gown (too prim, too pastel, too prissy, and it had nothing to do with the mood of the evening). And her long unruly hair did not help. I also did not like Melania Trump’s short white Marc Bouwer with its scarily exaggerated shoulders (it was too short, too tight, and it resembled something out of a bad Sci-Fi movie). I thought Kristen Stewart’s short, strange Balenciaga dress was better suited for an afternoon (It was far too casual, and I don’t care that it was designed by Nicolas Guesquiere). As for Beyonce’s sheer, suggestive Givenchy haute couture, it was just TOO TOO TOO (and her body stocking was not the color of her body). She is so beautiful, she truly does not need to wear something so completely over-the-top and almost too costumey in a Las Vegas sort of way. Just a note, just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

Rachel Feinstein-Currin with Marc Jacobs

Finally, I have to say that I really thought this was one night where nothing could be too over-the-top, too tasteless, too anything, and one could not go too far (I’d prefer flashes of bad taste to those dull boring gowns any day). However, after seeing Marc Jacobs in his black lace coat (or was it a dress?), white Brooks Brothers boxers, black socks, and black pilgrim pumps, I think I changed my mind. Though, on second thought, it did make me smile!

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

  1. Carey Mulligan's look is youthful. She glows in that color. Chloe Sevigny in Miu Miu dress is undecided.But I love the shoes!
    Keep on posting!

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