Reviewing the Met Gala: The Good, the Avant-Garde, the Absurd


Paying homage (or playing it safe — but that’s another story). Which is to say, taking bits and pieces from the CdG oeuvre and attempting to make them their own. The exhibition itself is titled “The Art of the In-Between,” and the ethos of the evening seemed to be “In Between Rei and [insert brand name here].” The results ranged from the interesting to the pretty silly to the eye-rollingly banal.

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Bella Hadid in Alexander Wang.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid seemed, for example, to have taken inspiration from Ms. Kawakubo’s statement in 2013 that she had decided to stop making clothes for her runway collections (she was making “objects for the body”) and decided that they, too, would stop wearing clothes; they would wear underwear!

So Ms. Jenner was in a La Perla crystal mesh scrim-like gown atop a body thong with a giant slash cut down the front, and Ms. Hadid was in an Alexander Wang crystal mesh catsuit. Nicki Minaj wore H&M satin hot pants beneath a flowing cape-dress of sparkling red and black, and Hailee Steinfeld wore a Vera Wang version of the same look, both open in the front to show the legs.

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Nicki Minaj in H&M.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Because really, who needs a dress, when you can have the idea of a dress? Not Kylie Jenner, in floral-and-tinsel-strewn see-through Versace, or Halle Berry, also in Versace, with black and white feathers sprouting from the train. Though, pointedly, that former proponent of the naked look, Jennifer Lopez, was demure in powder blue Valentino. Ditto Kim Kardashian West in baptismal white Vivienne Westwood that showed — shock! — her shoulders. Sometimes what’s really startling is upending expectations.

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Katy Perry in Maison Margiela.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Still, red, apparently in reference to Ms. Kawakubo’s “Roses and Blood” collection of 2014, was the color of the evening, on everyone from Katy Perry, an event co-chairwoman, who wore a sparkling, skeletonized Maison Margiela Artisanal red trench under a floor-length red veil decorated with a variety of doodads; to Emma Roberts, in a simple Diane Von Furstenberg sheath dress; Ashley Graham in ruffled and corseted H&M; and Rami Malek in a crimson Dior Homme tux. And the yin and yang of shredding and exaggeration were the design strategies.

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Jaden Smith in Louis Vuitton.

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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

See, for example, Kerry Washington in patchworked silver-and-black Michael Kors, the edges not quite lined up; Celine Dion in a cut-and-paste Versace ball gown/T-shirt; and Claire Danes in a rent-and-ruffled Monse pirate shirt, the asymmetric train framing her skinny black trousers (There were a lot of trousers, though my favorite was Evan Rachel Wood’s Altuzarra midnight-sky slip-dress/cigarette pant combo). See Janelle Monáe frothing and foaming at the skirt in Ralph & Russo, and Gigi Hadid in a half-samurai, half-boudoir Tommy Hilfiger number that got compared, on social media, to bad sushi.

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Priyanka Chopra in Ralph Lauren.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Less obvious, and better for it, were Jaden Smith in simple black Louis Vuitton clutching his cut-off dreadlocks as an accessory (really), and Priyanka Chopra in a classic Ralph Lauren trench coatdress — with a witchy collar and a swirling, stair-sweeping train. Both played to tradition and entirely undermined it. Which is to say, they managed to enter into the spirit of the evening while also maintaining a certain elegant integrity.

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Elle Fanning in Miu Miu.

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Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

It’s not an easy balance to achieve. Little wonder that many guests threw up their hands and chose to go with a theme of a different kind: Elle Fanning channeling “Frozen” in a strapless empire-waisted ice-blue princess Miu Miu; Zendaya in a Tropicana fantasy ball gown from Dolce & Gabbana; Katie Holmes in a ye olde Hollywood Zac Posen fishtail; Dakota Johnson in sexy Victorian-governess Gucci; and Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen in outfits that looked like they had been sourced from the costume department of “Game of Thrones.” That’s breaking the rules in a way, I guess.

Though perhaps ultimately the most avant-garde of all the approaches was the one evinced by both Anna Wintour, a co-chairwoman of the event, and Ms. Kawakubo herself: Ignore the dress code entirely. Ignore even the idea of a dress code.

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Zendaya wearing Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda.

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Benjamin Norman for The New York Times

Instead, Ms. Wintour chose Chanel, as she has done at every Met Gala in recent memory (this time a sparkle-encrusted T-shirt gown with a swath of fur at the knee giving way to lighter underskirt). Ms. Kawakubo chose a white jacket and black skirt, a simple variation on her usual uniform — with sneakers. It’s their party, and they’ll wear what they want to.

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