Met Gala: Bye-bye austerity, hello excess

H&M Met Gala


The Met Gala was the biggest news in fashion on Monday evening and it seems that as each year goes by, the red carpet choices get ever more OTT. This year’s exhibition theme (Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination) certainly lent itself to excess with a wild mix of angels, bishops, noviciates, a few saints in among the sinners and plenty of very heavenly bodies – all filtered through a high fashion lens.

The celebrities played the game quite dutifully, preferring to make waves through their fashion excess rather than from the spirit of protest that we’ve seen on many red carpets so far this year. Only Lena Waithe in Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera struck a blow for gay pride in a rainbow cape. And plus size model Ashley Graham also made it clear that the heavenly bodies can come in many sizes in her figure-emphasising Prabal Gurung dess.


Striking Gold

Some A-listers interpreted the ecclesiastical theme quite loosely – Amal Clooney’s Richard Quinn floral gala ballgown didn’t quite fit the concept. It didn’t quite fit the ballgown concept either. Well, it did from the back, but from the front it turned into slim cut pants that didn’t exactly work for me.

It seems her biggest concession to the ecclesiastical theme was to turn up with husband George, Mr Clooney’s god-like good looks (well, lots of people think so) ticking the heavenly box quite nicely.

There were plenty of other ‘heavenly’ bodies on show. Kim Kardashian in molten gold Versace and Cindy Crawford in Cardinal red Versace among them.


Ecclesiastical embrace

In fact, in many ways it was Versace’s night with the OTT theme playing right into the label’s comfort zone as it turned out a series of ever more shapely, sparkling, knock-‘em-dead gala gowns.

They didn’t all work. Katy Perry’s Versace gold mini and matching thigh boots felt more gimmick that fashion statement, with the giant pair of wings that were attached adding to that effect.

But Zendaya really made in impact in Joan of Arc Versace chainmail and Blake Lively in an intricately embroidered dress reminiscent of a bishop’s cape couldn’t be ignore either. Gigi Hadid in a Versace gown clearly inspired by stained-glass windows, and Sza in the frothiest confirmation dress ever were also impressive.


Sains, sinners and virgin warriors

Not that all of the looks had to be over the top to make an impact. Gisele relied on her own heavenly body to carry off a more low-key dress, although she was clearly thinking about good works when she chose it from the Versace lineup as it was made of fully sustainable silk.

Of course, you’d assume that other maximalist devotees such as Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana would also come out on top given the theme. And they did, although undoubtedly Versace took the prize.

So what about Dolce & Gabbana? The label’s regular and Alta Moda Collections seem custom made for this kind of theme and for this year’s event the design duo dressed Sarah Jessica Parker, plus the face of their latest fragrance Emilia Clarke, as well as Tabitha Simmons and Marjorie Harvey. The religious symbolism that has frequently been a feature of their print and embellishment stories played perfectly with the night’s overriding concept.


Heavenly bodies

Gucci wasn’t as big a presence as you might expect considering how influential the label is the moment and how maximalism is almost Alessandro Michele’s middle name.

But Lana Del Rey made waves in an embroidered dress complete with jewelled not-so-Sacred Heart and seven daggers aiming at it. Not the easiest look to wear but at least she entered into the spirit of the evening. Cleo Wade was less committed. Her Gucci dress looked great, but coming straight off the catwalk, its connection to the theme was rather more obscure.

Meanwhile Nick and Susie Cave trod a fine line between getting into the sprit of things and not, Susie Cave looking suitably mediaeval without being too obviously religious, although perhaps if her Gucci gown had been black we might all have assumed she was channelling a nun’s habit.


Grand gowns

Actually, nuns weren’t really big news on the red carpet as monastic looks proved less popular than embellishment and metallics. The austere red carpet looks seen earlier this year on the back of the #metoo movement, seem to have been largely left behind as celebs have fun playing with excess.

That meant the gala ballgown that has been out of favour on red carpets for a while was out in force. It will be interesting to see how far this influences the mainstream, particularly the wedding market. But its influence may be small, after all, there’s an impossible-to-ignore bigger bridal influencer event due later this month when Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry.

But what about those who didn’t want to dress up like a princess or go for the dazzling, encrusted, shimmering silver look like that worn by event host Rhianna?


Black or white

As mentioned, Susie Cave looked cool without a full skirt or heavy embroidery. And a few others did too. Bella Hadid, in all-black latex and leather courtesy of Gareth Pugh and Chrome Hearts, was both austere and sexy at the same time.

Imaan Hammam was a little more monastic in Zac Posen, but Solange Knowles in Iris Van Herpen looked about as far from a mother superior as it was possible to get.


Capes and trains

Notably missing from all this was a heavy high street presence with the trend for mass-market labels to embrace the red carpet seeming to have faded… except for one chain. H&M was out in force and the company certainly embraced the theme. Alek Wek wore a draped, flowing gown that took inspiration from mosaics. Lili Reinhart wore a silver dress inspired by armour and Olivia Munn a sleeveless chainmail dress that draped on the body like liquid. Kiersey Clemons wore a richly beaded dress like a netting of gold and pearl. And Jasmine Sanders wore a voluminous gown of gold metal lamé.

And with commerce in mind, the retailer also created The Gala Collection, a capsule of four red carpet looks “inspired by celestial glamour.” At least someone on Monday evening was thinking about how it might flow through to what the rest of us might want to wear come summer party time.

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