Met Gala Diary 2015: My Search For The Perfect Gown For The “China: Through The Looking Glass” Theme
It’s that time of year when I start to obsess about what I will wear to the Annual Met Gala. I drag all of our readers along into the nail-biting fashion adventure of what will I wear based on the current year’s theme. It’s never easy and someone recently asked me a great question, “What did I enjoy most, the search for a gown or the event itself?” Read on.
First, if you’ve been under a fashion rock and this is not the center of your universe, let me bring you up to speed. It was announced months ago, (and I admit I had my inside, unnamed, sources for advance warning) that the theme would be Chinese Whispers: Tales of the East in Art, Film, and Fashion. It was also revealed that Jennifer Lawrence (and I assume she’ll be in Dior Haute Couture along with Rihanna) will co-host the event at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, alongside Hong Kong-based textile tycoon Silas Chou, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife Wendi Deng, Chinese actress Gong Li and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Since September and a subsequent media tour, the theme has morphed and was officially announced as China Through The Looking Glass. More details were released and the exhibit will “explore how China has fueled the fashionable imagination for centuries, resulting in highly creative distortions of cultural realities and mythologies. High fashion will be juxtaposed with Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains, and other art, as well as films, to reveal enchanting reflections of Chinese imagery.”
According to Vogue the theme ‘will primarily examine how eastward-looking Westerners have understood, misunderstood, and appropriated Chinese culture.” Hence the original Chinese Whispers naming which refers to ‘an intricate process of translation and mistranslation similar to a game of “Telephone” – which the British call “Chinese Whispers.”
It was also reported that “much of the focus will be on Chinese opera, with a display of pieces from John Galliano’s spring 2003 Christian Dior couture show (below), which was inspired by the late great opera singer Mei Lanfang.” I know we will see at least one piece from Mary Katrantzou in the exhibit, from her Aw11 collection, Roberto Cavalli, pieces from Alexander McQueen as well as from the 2004 Tom Ford Yves Saint Laurent runway and vintage Pucci (above). I actually know where you can acquire them. I’m not sure I’m ready to giveaway my sources.
Obviously,this year my gown needs to be Asian-inspired. This is my process. It’s fun. It works, and in the end, I always end up with a gown I love.
Step 1: Plan Months in Advance. If you are lucky enough to get an invite, start your search early. Very early.
Step 2: Do The Homework: You need to understand the theme if you’re going to find the right gown. However, what I learned at last year’s Gala is now more than ever it’s really about designers showcasing their latest wares (Fall 2015) on a celebrity and if you’re not in that category, well, you need to be resourceful. The designers are clever enough that they have infused elements of their collections that will make their way to the Red Carpet. This fuels demand and sales long after the event.
So do your homework and study the collections. You’re bound to find hidden gems. Some of the key looks I think we’ll see and I’ve been chasing down myself include beauties from Givenchy, Zac Posen, Erdem, Balenciagia, Lanvin and others who embody the Asian-inspired theme and fabrics. I am sure we will see stunning editorials about how to approach this in the upcoming issue of Vogue.
Step 3: Approach Designers You Know. Stylists and celebrities begin discussions with fashion houses as soon as the theme is announced. The inverse is also true. Houses think about their muses months in advance. In fact dresses often need to be approved by Vogue. Most guests, and I include myself in this group, have relationships with key designers and approach them or attend the couture shows to find just the right gown and place their order. There are often gowns from the ready-to-wear collections as well. Important clients can place a reserve a gown for The MET. In turn, the designer will make sure a look is embargoed by keeping detailed lists of which client or celebrity is wearing which look. This prevents a who wore it best moment on the Red Carpet.
That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I also always break looks down into colors, themes or exciting fashion trends to find just the right inspiration and look for me. This year, I’ve been exploring bold reds, chinoise fabrics, golds, blacks with chines-inspired patterns and looking to Chinese designers for inspiration. Some guests are even having their couture gowns made in the Far East instead of in Paris.
I suspect we’ll see some of the most beautiful chinoise fabrics ( Asian blooms, Chinese symbols, dragons (and if it’s five-toes it was originally reserved for the Chinese royal family), bold leaves & wandering branches in stunning fabrics.
Step 4: Tell Everyone You Are Looking For A Dress: Everyone loves getting involved in the search. It’s fun. It’s the best fashion challenge because you can experiment. Retailers start calling designers and everyone gets in the act. Some of the best gowns materialize near the very end.
Step 5: Explore Vintage Options. Some of the most spectacular gowns seen on the Met Red Carpet come from Lily et Cie in Beverly Hills. This is the hidden source you’ve seen on everyone from the Olsen twins to Cassandra Grey who last year wore a vintage pink Oscar de La Renta reminiscent of duchess satin gown worn by Jacqueline Kennedy in the 60’s. In fact, that’s how I acquired my stunning demi-couture Valentino last year.
I now have to admit, I don’t actually have just the right gown yet but I’m close. However, this year, if I had my druthers, I’d love a red gown or something in a stunning chinoise. I’ve been out asking and looking for months, and some of my choices are finally on the way. So back to the question, “what do you enjoy more, the search for the dress or the evening.” As I said to Erin Weineger at Pret-A-Reporter yesterday, “Enjoying the journey is just as important as the event. “
With Love From LA,
NJ Goldston, The Brunette