Looking good is no longer enough to stand out on the Met Gala red carpet, for the right reasons. This year’s best outfits at the annual fundraiser that puts designer fashion under the spotlight had captivating backstories that went beyond the traditional parade of sparkle and sexy.
On the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kim Kardashian’s dress, originally worn by Marilyn Monroe was the headline, Sarah Jessica Parker’s gown took a chapter out of American history while Blake Lively’s double duty ensemble was an encyclopaedic magnum opus.
Kardashian who arrived masked last year in an infamous black catsuit by Balenciaga, stepped out of the shadows in a beaded dress sketched by Cher favorite Bob Mackie for Hollywood costume designer Jean Louis, worn by Marilyn Monroe when she exhaled “Happy Birthday, Mr President” to President Kennedy in 1964.
The reality star proudly claimed she had aggressively dieted to replicate Monroe’s proportions in the fitted gown, which on the surface ignored the evening’s theme of Gilded Glamor and White Tie. Its reputation as the most expensive dress to sell at auction, going under the hammer for $ US4.8 million ($ 5.8 million) in 2016, did make it a suitable representation for an era of excess.
Parker’s voluminous dress was a thoughtful collaboration with designer Christopher John Rogers, who dressed US Vice President Kamala Harris for her inauguration. The full-skirted, strapless check gown with buttoned bodice, was inspired by a dress designed by Elizabeth Keckly for Mary Todd Lincoln in 1862.
The outfit’s provenance may have missed The Gilded Age by eight years, but Keckly’s background as a slave who bought her freedom, was a more important story to tell. Milliner Philip Treacy’s veiled headpiece with feathers and flowers helped the history lesson go down.
As co-chair and serial attendee of the event, overseen by US Vogue editor Anna Wintour, the pressure was on Gossip Girl alumni Lively to embrace the dress code. Lively succeeded in a Versace gown that required a decoder, with multiple references to the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty, including a quick change where a copper-colored train tore away, revealing an aqua tint to symbolize the patina of age.
Sticking to a not so short, but sweet and cinched message, was Billie Eilish in a mint and lemon Gucci gown with a Gibson Girl silhouette, that stopped short of looking as though it was from the costume department of The Importance of Being Earnest by championing a message of sustainability using repurposed fabric.