Most red-carpet fashion is designed to flatter, which is why it’s generally so snoozy. Nipped-in waists, body con, plunging necklines…it’s literally tailor-made to show off “the goods,” often at the expense of what might actually be considered cool, interesting or subversive. But the Met Gala is different. It is a designated opportunity to play mad scientist with the boundaries of what we consider “fashionable” black-tie garb.
I’ll admit I was particularly excited to see how celebrities would pay homage to this year’s Rei Kawakubo theme — because talk about the antithesis of stereotypically seductive clothing. Kawakubo is it. Cartoonish layers, androgyny, piled-on padding, bulbous hips, tattered fabric, mutant trousers…such are the signature trappings of her legendary designs — almost purposefully upsetting at times. The New York Times nailed the essence of Kawakubo’s singularity earlier today, writing, “Many designers work with the goal of making women look good. Ms. Kawakubo seems to work with the goal of making women look again.”
And again and again and again. I was glued to Man Repeller’s Instagram live feed of the event, masterfully narrated by one Amelia Christina Diamond.
My first favorite moment was discovering that the red carpet was actually a beige carpet. My second favorite moment was when the Olsen twins SPRINTED up the steps like Uncle Jesse was saving them a seat inside. Their ensembles looked like those of two people who got cold on the plane home from Coachella, but somehow an incredibly chic version of that image. How do they do it?? I am forever in awe.
Tracee Ellis Ross in Comme des Garçons was an excellent example of how to execute on the evening’s theme while still looking completely yourself. I could have easily packed up my No. 2 pencil and gone to bed after she arrived looking like the perfect combination of Violet Beauregarde, Christmas morning and a chaise lounge, but thank goodness I didn’t because Jaden Smith showed up shortly thereafter carrying a fistful of his own (recently removed) dreadlocks. Given Kawakubo’s reputation for bucking norms, I couldn’t help but smile in appreciation.
The majority of tonight’s nods to Kawakubo’s iconic personage and designs aired on the side of subtle, however — like Dakota Johnson’s ruffly, oversize shoulder pads and Kerry Washington’s blunt black bob.
Some people pushed the boundary a bit further. Shout out to Jenna Lyons for giving Girl Scouts an unsolicited makeover, Cara Delevingne for putting the Tin Man to shame, Rihanna for moonlighting as a sea anemone, Solange for wearing Darth Vader’s college duvet and Zendaya for looking like a Grace Coddington Vogue editorial come to life.
When I say “pushed the boundary,” I’m referring to the one set by regular red-carpet standards, which is a pretty low bar. I was hoping people would take a truly balls-to-the-wall approach given Kawakubo’s penchant for the absurd. We’re talking about the woman who sends walking sculptures down the runway, after all. So why not go all out and show up at the Met Gala wearing a lampshade strapped over your head or a jacket with no arm holes? If not this year, then when? I wanted to be dazzled!
After consuming the relatively safe fruits of this year’s beige carpet, I thought I had the right to be a bit disappointed. But then Leandra massaged my eyeballs with this slack: “The whole thing with Rei’s clothing is that she doesn’t impose her own meaning on it.” After which I immediately thought to myself: OKAY, YES, THAT IS VERY TRUE.
Kawakubo intentionally leaves her designs up for our interpretation as the audience/wearers, which means there was no messing up this year’s red (I mean beige) carpet. It was the ultimate “you do you,” and what’s more mad scientist than that? It can literally mean anything you want. That kind of open territory is just as bold as a bulbous hip pad, and Kawakubo knows it.
All photos via Getty Images.