Pearls, a giant cat, and Irish design were on show as the Met Gala was held in New York on Monday evening, with Karl Lagerfeld: A line of beauty as its theme. Although Lagerfeld was the one being honoured, the Irish were still well-represented. Alexa Chung wore Irish designer Róisín Pierce, Billie Eilish wore custom Simone Rocha, and Karlie Kloss opted for Loewe, designed by Irish designer Jonathan Anderson. Not shying away from his love of statement suits, Irish actor Barry Keoghan wore a tartan tweed suit by Burberry for his Met Gala debut. Model Imaan Hammam wore a white beaded gown by Irish designer Micheal Stewart’s label Standing Ground.
The Met Gala raises funds for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute with a dress code aligned with the exhibition’s theme. In short, it’s a big, high-octane costume party with starlets, A-listers and designers decked out in couture with a VIP guest list carefully curated by America Vogue’s editor Anna Wintour. Famous for being the fashion industry’s Oscars, it’s far from a tasteful, timid, straightforward red carpet. Often producing meme-worthy moments, risk-taking and outre ensembles are encouraged, as long as they nail the theme.
Previous themes have explored everything from technology to the Catholic Church’s relationship with fashion. While in other years, guests interpreted the themes of camp or punk. For 2023, the late Lagerfeld was the gala’s style theme, co-ordinating with the exhibition’s subject, a homage to the former Chanel and Fendi creative director with a designer retrospective. The theme, however, doesn’t come without criticism, as Lagerfeld’s history of controversial comments on weight, migrants, and the #MeToo movement have come to the fore once more.
Despite this, attendees were tasked with a dress code simpy stating: “in honour of Karl”. Enthusiastically embracing the theme, the A-list approached it in many ways. The first was sourcing archival looks from Lagerfeld’s illustrious 60-year career, where he worked across significant fashion houses, including Chanel, Fendi, Chloe, and Balmain.
Taking the vintage route was Vanessa Kirby in vintage Chloe. Opting for archival Chanel, Naomi Campbell wore a blush and metallic couture column dress from 2010. Penélope Cruz wore an embellished hooded gown from 1998, and Margot Robbie donned a one-shoulder black dress with chain embellishment from 1993, which was worn previously by Cindy Crawford.
Nicole Kidman and Gisele Bündchen instead recycled the looks they wore before. Kidman chose a blush pink feathered couture gown she wore for Chanel No. 5 commercial directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2004. Bündchen selected a vintage Chanel dress she wore for an editorial with Lagerfeld in 2006. Perhaps one of the most sustainable Met Galas ever, Oliva Wilde wore a gown inspired by Lagerfeld’s tenure at Chloe, crafted from deadstock (surplus fashion items that haven’t been sold).
Giving a softer spin to Barbiecore, rose pink was one of the reigning colours of the Met Gala carpet. Gwendoline Christie, Sydney Sweeney, Ashley Graham, Jennifer Lopez and Kate Moss all opted for sweet-tinged confections that ran from blush to almost nude. The bride was a trademark runway spectacle at Lagerfeld’s couture Chanel shows, closing out his catwalk, so it’s no surprise bridal-esque gowns dominated the Met carpet. Combining vintage and white, co-host Dua Lipa wore a 1992 Chanel Couture tweed ball gown, previously worn by Claudia Schiffer on the runway. Alexa Chung wore an alternative bridal look by Irish designer Róisín Pierce that featured Pierce’s signature ruffles and ruching. Nicole Peltz Beckham, Miranda Kerr and Whitney Peak also selected bridal-inspired gowns. Elle Fanning co-ordinated her bohemian style with a bouquet, while Florence Pugh donned a dramatic feather headdress to a freshly shaved head. It wouldn’t be a Met Gala if there weren’t a dramatic train moment, and there were plenty, from Lily Collin’s skirt featuring Karl’s name to Kendall Jenner’s micro playsuit with trailing sleeves and Jennifer Lopez. Dominating the storied steps, Jeremy Pope donned a custom cape by Balmain that featured a sketch of Lagerfeld’s face emblazoned.
With an iconic style, many decided to memorialise Lagerfeld more subtly by adding his quirky signatures like dark sunglasses, fingerless gloves, and collars and cuffs to their ensembles, most notably Lily James, Jessica Chastain, and Jenna Ortega. Emboldened by the evening’s honoree and his penchant for monochrome, many embraced strictly black and white outfits. Emily Blunt wore a white lace shirt and skinny trousers with a skirt overlay designed by Michael Kors. A muse of Lagerfeld’s, model Cara Delevingne wore an oversized white shirt with a cape and black leather gloves. Glenn Close layered a crisp white collar under her silver sequin and taffeta gown. Ties were a prominent accessory, as Teyana Taylor, Cardi B, Kristen Stewart, and Stephanie Hsu demonstrated.
Others preferred to pay tribute with ensembles and accessories dripping in Chanel-isms, most notably pearls, followed by chains and tweed. Anne Hathway merged Chanel and Versace signatures with a white tweed gown complete with safety pins. Rita Ora embellished her nails with foot-long pearled chains, Michaela Coel wore a bedazzled chain, bead and pearl Schiaparelli gown, and Phoebe Bridgers wore a pearl-encrusted black dress by Tory Burch. Amanda Seyfried’s Oscar De La Renta chain was made entirely from metallic chains. At the same time, Kim Kardashian’s Schiaparelli gown was wholly crafted from pearls, with what seemed like Skims underwear layered underneath. Lizzo made a simple black dress more Met Gala-appropriate with a pearl embellished overlay Shunning clothing altogether, bar briefs, Lil Nas X was body painted and decorated in pearls and crystals.
If pearls were the embellishment of choice for many, rosettes were a close second adornment in tribute to Chanel’s house emblem of the camellia flower. They bloomed on a sheer black gown worn by Karen Elson, red lace dress by Kaitlyn Dever, an ab-baring bow dress by Daisy Edgar Jones and a tartan suit worn by Irish actor Barry Keoghan.Musician Bad Bunny also got the flower memo, draping a white floral cape over his white tweed suit, as did Sean Diddy Combs.
Less fancy dress than previous Met Galas, there was still an element of tongue-in-cheek with the cat motif in honour of Karl Lagerfeld’s adored Birman cat Choupette, adding a quirky element to the red carpet gowns. Lagerfeld’s beloved cat, Choupette, is an influencer in its own right, boasts 164,000 Instagram followers and was left a sizeable chunk of Lagerfeld’s fortune. Chloe Fineman co-ordinated her pink and black rosette dress with an embellished kitty bag. In contrast, Doja Cat accessorised her Oscar De La Renta dress with prosthetics that transformed her into an actual cat, not just by name. Not to the outdone, Jared Leto hit the red carpet in a life-size Choupette costume, delayering to reveal a black caped look complete with fingerless gloves.Leto wasn’t the only star to do a reveal on the red carpet. Janelle Monae did a transformation peeling back an oversized coat and long white shirt to showcase a sheer hooped dress by Thom Browne.
Never shy of having a sweeping train moment, Rihanna arrived fashionably late to the carpet in a white silk Valentino dress with a billowing train ticking the bridal-ready dress trend. She finished the look with a jacket covered in giant camellias and a pair of white sunglasses with attached faux eyelashes.
For the less risk-taking guests, the general idea was to dress how you would go on any illustrious red carpet, with slinky, sheer, cut-out gowns adopted by Kylie Jenner, Rita Ora, Aubrey Plaza, and Amber Valletta. A Met-gala tradition, barely there and naked dresses always appear, demonstrated this year by Rachel Brosnahan, Gigi Hadid and Vanessa Hudgens.