White tie: a formal occasion where ladies are expected to wear a full evening dress and men a white bow tie and tails.
Charles James: a 20th-century couturier famous for elegant ball gowns.
Did no one do their homework before attending the Met Ball Monday night in New York? Or perhaps attendees thought that paying that much for a ticket—a whopping $25,000, up $10,000 from last year—made them exempt from the rules?
It was disappointing to see the lack of enthusiasm and regard for the white-tie theme and designer being honored at this year's gala, kicking off the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Anna Wintour Costume Center exhibit, “Charles James: Beyond Fashion.” It would have been the perfect time to have a Cinderella moment and wear a ball gown with an elaborate structure, a la the British designer's famous creations. Instead, everyone was trying to show each other up with a “risky" choice, like it was the MTV Music Awards red carpet or something.
(We’re looking at you, Rihanna.)
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But let’s start on a high note and applaud those who stunned in glamorous evening attire: Claire Danes, Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss and Amy Adams, all in Oscar de la Renta; Suki Waterhouse in Burberry; Jessica Paré and Zoe Saldana in Michael Kors; Karen Elson and Dita von Teese in Zac Posen; Dakota Johnson in Jason Wu; Kristen Wiig in Balenciaga by Alexander Wang; Hayden Panetierre in Dennis Basso; Charlize Theron in Dior Couture; Diane Kruger in BOSS; Anna Kendrick in J. Mendel; and Wintour’s daughter Bee Shaffer in Alexander McQueen.
We’ll even give a pass to Katie Holmes in Marchesa for looking like she was auditioning for “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway.
As for best dressed? It’s a tossup between Sarah Jessica Parker in Oscar de la Renta, Hailee Steinfeld in Prabal Gurung, and -- we can’t believe it either -- Kendall Jenner in Topshop.
Other members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan, though, failed to impress. “The Most Talked-About Couple in the World,” Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, surprisingly played by the rules but failed to wow in lackluster Lanvin. Perhaps Kimye is tired of all the attention? Has Hell frozen over?
One couple that nailed it was Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka in Thom Browne. So did Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds in Gucci Première, and Amber Heard (in Giambattista Valli) with Johnny Depp in a white ensemble by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, evoking old-Hollywood glamour.
Rihanna, dressed by Stella McCartney, pushed the boundaries too much for the occasion in a revealing crop top and open-back gown. Anne Hathaway and Emma Stone both wore slight crop-top silhouettes, by Calvin Klein and Thakoon, respectively, but these were much more tasteful in their attempt to be trendy.
Beyoncé’s see-through Givenchy Couture gown seemed better suited for last year’s theme, “Punk: Couture to Chaos.” Thankfully, husband Jay Z’s Givenchy ensemble was much more appropriate.
Speaking of mainstream pop culture showing up last night, Lupita Nyong’o seems to have been more inspired by Coachella than Charles James, wearing a feathered Prada dress with matching headband. We reckon this look should have stayed in the Coachella Valley desert.
We’re not sure what inspired Rita Ora to choose her Donna Karan Atelier Gala gown, which brough to mind tacky middle-America proms and rave girls in elastic body wraps.
Ladies in short dresses were some of the biggest fashion "don'ts" of the night: Michelle Williams in Louis Vuitton, Lena Dunham in Giambattista Valli Haute Couture, Elizabeth Olsen in Miu Miu and Kristen Stewart in Chanel. What about "white tie" is casual enough for a mini dress? Solange Knowles, however, chose a short, structured ball gown by 3.1 Phillip Lim that Charles James would have applauded. Risky, but she pulled it off successfully.
Final note: Did someone tell Kate Upton (in Dolce & Gabbana) and Janelle Monae (Tadashi Shoji) the theme was Cinco de Mayo flamenco and bull fighting?