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“Dangerous Liaisons” was set up NOT in the basement space which traditionally houses the Costume Exhibits, but rather, in the Museum’s French period rooms, The Wrightsman Galleries. The only other time this has happened was back in l962, for an exhibit called “18th Century Women”, under the tutelage of Diana Vreeland.
Last evening was the much anticipated benefit gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, celebrating the Costume Institute’s new exhibit “Dangerous Liaisons”- and thanks to the soggy weather, the Red Carpet more closely resembled a ‘Wet’ Carpet. Ah, but of course, that would hardly concern or phase those rich enough to shell out $3500 for the pleasure of partaking in the fabulous evening since I think we can safely assume most did not travel by subway.
Because the theme of the night was 18th century splendor, pomp and circumstance, and the invitation suggested that one “dress up in a version of 18th century costume” (hey, it isn’t called the Costume Institute for nothing, let’s face it) this threw many seasoned party goers into a bit of a tailspin, as had been reported previously, leaving many to ponder how they would best translate the mandate. Well, from what I could see, the few that really took the whole thing THAT seriously, were fairly few and far between, but in my opinion, Amber Valletta lead the pack with her gold satin lace back corset top, gathered, bustled, printed long skirt, AND let us not forget the requisite powdered wig, which completed the look.
Also doing her homework- – and no surprise there since this has seemingly become a full time job for the always ‘out there’ social fixture – – is Helen Lee Shifter, whose hubby Tim owns Le Sportsac. Always dressed to the nines, she really took the tone of the evening to heart and opted for a boned, ruched, multi ‘paniered’, corseted turquoise satin gown finished off with a lavender satin stole.
Of course, in the 18th century, men were truly the ‘peacocks’, and our own modern day peacocks strutting their stuff last night included Zac Posen, whose vest and cummerbund together made it seem as though he raided the wardrobe locker from the original “Pirates of Penzance”; Vogue’s very own Hamish Bowles who tastefully and elegantly spiced up his black tuxedo with a pale satin embroidered vest and an ivory satin embroidered coat thrown over it all.
But literally ‘taking the cake’ was larger than life (and I mean LARGER) Vogue editor at large, Andre Leon Talley, who arrived accompanying Renee Zellweger in a voluminous ivory satin greatcoat made especially for him by Karl Lagerfeld. The contrast between the tiny, sparrow like Zellweger, and the giant sized Talley made for an especially arresting visual image. Oh, by the way, I reported that in Sunday’s Style section of The New York Times, an article,”Today’s Cinderellas Face an Old Question: How to Dress for the Ball” mentioned that Bernice Kwok-Gabel, a spokeswoman for the Costume Institute, had been asked to literally measure the door that leads into the museum for an “unidentified” attendee. Well, there is no question in my mind that the person in question must have been Andre Leon Talley’s assistant – nobody even came close to wearing such an impressively sized number.
Who else stood out? I happened to have loved Anna Wintour’s soigné and oh so elegant Christian Dior Haute Couture fitted, jeweled, and embroidered silvery knee length coat with balloon-like hem, worn with a pale taupe-y green satin long slim gown. What a nice change of pace for the editor who usually opts for bare, slip- top,narrow gowns. The idea of wearing an ornate coat was very unusual and really set her apart from everyone else. It was also a modern and chic way to translate the decadent theme of the night. And Anna’s daughter, Bee Shaffer, is turning into a beautiful young fashion plate in her own right. Accompanied by the young, attractive Olivier Theyskens, who designs for Rochas, she opted for the designer’s extremely appropriate, flattering, dreamy, frothy, pale strapless full skirted tulle gown.
Getting back to the idea of ‘modern’- the ever modern Nicolas Guesquiere’s ‘date’ for the evening- actress Diane Kruger- was dressed in a satin gown the shade of “pink champagne” based on a “1932 look by Cristobal Balenciaga” as he explained to WWD. The designer also told the newspaper that he felt the dress “evoked the 18th century theme of the party in its material and color, but not in its silhouette” and admitted that he doesn’t often ‘do’ long dressy dresses but “it’s what we’re working on now.”
Another fashion star that wanted to go the ‘modern’ route was Carine Roitfeld who wore a narrow, black sheer illusion top Helmut Lang long gown. It may not have been the most standout, breathtaking or arresting dress of the evening, but simple and modern it was. Speaking of standing out, Linda Evangelista shined in her decidedly Orientalist one- shouldered Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture gown. And Charlize Theron, Hollywood’s new Golden Girl looked amazing in black strapless long full-skirted Dior Haute Couture gown worn with black fur stole, her blonde wavy hair arranged in an unpretentious up do. Jennifer Lopez also looked ‘glam’ with her hair tightly pulled back in a chignon, red lipstick, and black frothy, strapless dress with pale ‘fringed’ fur stole thrown over, compliments of Dolce & Gabbana, the duo that also served as her dates for the evening.
Who didn’t fare so well? I was disappointed in Renee Zellweger’s gold satin Carolina Herrera bustle back gown. I don’t understand the star’s obsession with this designer- I just find the choice a bit stiff and old fashioned, and with all the great fashion out there, she could have really done so much better. Denise Rich may in fact be RICH, but certainly not in taste – she continued on with her usual tacky, tasteless style dressed in ill fitting shocking pink strapless, and is living proof that money has nothing at all to do with the way one ultimately looks.
-Marilyn Kirschner with photos by Randy Brooke