It’s not every year that I pen a report on the annual Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s Costume Institute Gala, one of my favorite glitzy events for the beautiful people. I’ll only take that route if inspiration strikes, and I’m happy to say the walking mannequins of Hollywood have provided some fodder for thought — and maybe a platform for just a little bit of Red Carpet Snark.
The Met Ball has become the It Event for those who are keen to be seen in recent years, but it’s been around since 1946 and wasn’t always the (reality) star-studded draw it is today.
What it has always been, though, is a celebration of art as seen through fashion. To that end, the gala has a different theme that reflects a larger exhibition each year, to which attendees are asked to adhere. It’s often a request that’s met with mixed results, and this year was no exception with the theme Manus x Machina, Fashion in an Age of Technology at hand.
It happened to collide with the current metals trend in clothes and decor, undoubtedly making celebs squeal with glee at the prospect of wearing something from the more soldered end of their favorite designers’ collections. That said, there was a lot of metal, which doesn’t always translate to ‘fashion technology.’ Balmain, I’m looking at you.
But this year’s Met Gala also proved to be a fashionable onion with many layers. The ensembles that made the best first impressions weren’t always the best representations of the theme, while some I initially passed over were dead-on in their tribute to technology in fashion, and (thankfully) not as overt in their approach as Zayn Malik’s Terminator arms.
While I wasn’t exactly looking for a Twitter Feed belt buckle or a dress that doubled as a movie screen (although both would’ve been cool), I did expect to see more ‘tech’ and less Mr. and Mrs. Roboto. There were a lot of ‘techie looks,’ a la Gaga’s motherboard jacket, but not a lot of true tech… and when there was a nod to technology’s effect on fashion, it was often hard to spot. It can be tough to see LED lights on the Met’s broad daylight red carpet, and even harder to spot fabric made from recycled plastic bottles, as in the case of Emma Watson’s Calvin Klein/Eco Age ensemble, wherein the majority of the fabric used was made from Newlife — yarn made from 100 percent post-consumer product.
Continuing to dig deeper, though, I realized that model Karolina Kurkova was wearing a Marchesa gown developed in tandem with IBM Watson. It responded to ‘compassionate’ Tweets only that included specifically assigned hashtags, allowing flowers on Kurkova’s train to glow in various colors.
Freida Pinto, in Tory Burch, wore a white gown with color-changing Swarovski crystal panels arranged across the front. The crystals were wired from the inside and ‘e-ink displays’ cycled through a series of color patterns. This look escaped me at first though, because on camera, it looks very flat and unremarkable. Such are the perils of the Met blogger who cannot (yet) attend.
Claire Danes also came in lights, taking a bit of a Gypsy-bride risk with a Zac Posen ball gown made with ‘custom fiber-optic-lined organza’ that glowed in the dark. The dress was ungainly, but beautiful nonetheless, and on point.
The Best Theme Accessory Award goes to Karlie Kloss’ Light-up Clutch.
Finally, Beyonce came armed with the best ‘Man versus Machine’ interpretation of Manus x Machina, in a Givenchy Haute Couture dress made of synthetic Latex and embellished with pearls and hand-painted flowers. The perfect marriage of materials born from technology and man’s hand, not to mention extra nature-credit for the pearls.
May the art — and science — live on.