We were nervous about this year’s Met Gala theme. Nervous because the theme was China: Through The Looking Glass, which seemed like an open invite for questionable or racist or racistly questionable outfits. Fortunately, most attendees stayed on the right side of homage versus appropriation. That’s why our best dressed list contains only attendees who followed our handy guide for how not to be a racist idiot at the Met Gala. Now on to the fashions – with not a single geisha costume or hair chopstick in the mix!
American audiences might only be familiar with Fan Bingbing from the X-Men series, but she’s been performing in China for close to two decades, and with a recent deal with 20th Century Fox we may be about to see a lot more of her. This gold gown with elaborate emerald-green cape is my top look of the night – a modern, formal, lavish take on Chinese design. I want that cape framed and hung on my wall, because it is absolute art.
The best way to avoid offending anyone at a gala with a theme that’s practically asking you to make it racial: wear something that has little, if anything, to do with the theme. Also, be Beyonce. It always helps to be Beyonce. Bey wore a Givenchy gown… or, I guess, some Givenchy clusters of strategically placed sequins. Daily Mail said that the jewels were “protecting her modesty,” because the Daily Mail is the fussy English grandmother I never had. Beyonce followed our rule of “interpret the exhibit” by choosing a broad, flat shoulder and fitted cut (um, very fitted?) that is slightly reminiscent of some modern takes on the cheongsam. Which means she also followed our rule “know your Chinese influences” by not showing up in some sort of weird kimono.
Oh my goodness, yes. The Met Gala dress code not only requires attendees to wear full evening dress but, as a fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum Of Art’s Costume Institute, it allows the guests to play dress up. Stars can wear more creative ensembles than at major awards shows, but their creativity has to be tempered by better taste than at, say, the MTV awards. In other words, if you cannot wear a fur-trimmed yellow cape and bejeweled headpiece at the Met, there is simply nowhere you can wear it. Rihanna followed our suggestion of celebrating a Chinese designer Guo Pei. You can read more about her here. And yes, this dress has already spawned 1,000 memes. Good job, internet.
Now for something completely different. It sort of looked like Anne Hathaway was taking Star Wars Day (May the 4th, obviously) to heart – but in the best way possible. Sure, this Ralph Lauren gown is more restrained than Rihanna and Beyonce’s looks, but you still don’t get much of a chance to wear a hood on the red carpet. Could “it has a hood!” become the new “it has pockets?”
The Olsen twins took a broad interpretation of the theme, dressing as the ghosts of two old Chinese widows from the past. But seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen MK&A in matching outfits since the early 2000s, and I love that when they finally do it they both wear these giant black numbers. From what I can tell Mary-Kate paid tribute to the theme by wearing silk brocade, typical in traditional Chinese dress. Ashley looks sort of like Stevie Nicks in Victorian mourning dress, and I’m not making fun of her when I say that. I swoon over designs from The Row just about every fashion week and I love the 180 the Olsens have taken since their days in matching denim sunflower hats.
So, what’s Chinese about this dress? That’s not a rhetorical question, I’m really wondering what’s Chinese about this dress. Grandma Daily Mail says that she “stuck to [the theme] and ran with” it. I suppose the swooping lines and minimalism is a bit reminiscent of modern Chinese design – I’m thinking of streamlined yet flowing interior design, more than anything. I don’t know. It’s pretty, though.
There was a lot of red last night. I assume it was a tribute to the Chinese flag, the importance of red as a lucky color in China, and those stunning Chinese wedding dresses. That’s why this tiered gown didn’t feel TOO off-theme, even if it wasn’t explicity Chinese. The skirt is really blowing my mind here, even if the structured, studded bodice isn’t necessarily my favorite.
Janis Ian, killing it. The drape of this is just perfect, and the embroidered silk pays tribute to the theme without going into costume mode. A lot of folks missed a real opportunity to play with the theme in their accessories last night, but these tassel earrings are amazing. I really wish I owned this dress and also had someplace to wear it (Met tickets are only like $25,000, I’m sure I could come up with it??).
Allison Williams in Giambattista Valli Couture
Here it is again. Red and cheongsam-style sleeves – just enough tribute to Chinese design without straight-up appropriating traditional dress. I know Allison Williams does the princess dress thing a lot, and sometimes it can seem like a larger version of something a very fancy nine-year-old can wear, but I think that the demure and sweet look works for Allison and she knows it.
Hey, You Tried Something
As I said, the Met Gala is a time to wear outlandish, elaborate looks that just wouldn’t fit in most scenarios. While I wasn’t particularly feeling any of the looks below, at least they really went for it, I guess?