NEW YORK It is hard enough for famous people to decide what to wear to the annual Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, fashion’s party of the year, even though Anna Wintour has been known to offer advice. But imagine the pressure facing guests at this year’s ball, on May 6, where the theme, as you might have heard, is punk.
“No one has a clue,” said Cameron Silver, an owner of the Los Angeles vintage boutique Decades, who has been fielding pleas for hard-edged-but-will-land-me-in-Vogue fashion since the museum announced in September that the subject of its spring exhibition would be “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” What do you suggest to a client who can afford a $25,000-or-so ticket to the gala, but has nothing to wear? Stephen Sprouse from the 1980s? Or perhaps Vivienne Westwood’s “Cafe Society” gowns from 1994?
“We keep running into the same problem, which is that rich women don’t want to look punk, or grunge,” Silver said. “Not that many women want to look like Nancy Spungen.”
At Byronesque, a new online service for vintage aficionados, some stylists have been requesting just about anything with safety pins, like that Versace dress that Elizabeth Hurley wore to the premiere of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” in 1994. Gill Linton, the chief executive of the site, said she suspects most guests will end up playing it safe, as in safety pins as accessories. (This might prove embarrassing, since one of the mannequins will already be wearing a Versace dress.)
“There are a lot of Liz Hurley wannabes out there,” Linton said. “It could be more ‘cautious’ than ‘chaos.“’
The Costume Institute gala is many things: It is a barometer of the famous and powerful, a critical fundraiser for the museum, a testament to the muscle of Wintour, who is a chairwoman. But one important thing that it is not is a costume party. Some original punks are expected to attend, including Westwood (accompanied by the actress-model Lily Cole), but most, it is safe to assume, will not literally be wearing Mohawks or garbage bags while they are looking at mannequins dressed in the same. Will they?
“I wake up with a Mohawk every day,” said the unfailingly elegant Carolina Herrera, but she was talking about a hairstyle more commonly known as bed head. The designer Lisa Perry, known for incorporating elements of Pop Art into her work, is busy constructing a black matte jersey halter column to which she has attached a thick leather choker. And she promises to have rainbow-colored hair, so that should be lively.
But in recent years, the red carpet has become so closely watched, with no less than four live streams planned this time, that a certain sense of spontaneity becomes lost when a large portion of the invited talent comes packaged by their hosts.
As with the Oscars, you begin to feel the pull of special interests here and there, and it might raise some eyebrows that Moda Operandi, a sponsor of the exhibition, announced this week that it has been coordinating looks with a handful of designers who will also make them available for purchase online on Tuesday. Dresses from Balmain, Rodarte, Nina Ricci and Wes Gordon are included, though it is not yet clear who will be wearing them. And shouldn’t those people get a cut of the action? Also, Samsung, which is collaborating on the live stream, is reportedly bringing PSY, someone probably not at the top of Wintour’s wish list.
While the museum will not confirm who will attend until Monday night, things do tend to leak. As usual, the star power will be overwhelming, and while things can always change, those rumored to be coming (spoiler alert!) include Jennifer Lopez with Michael Kors, Gwyneth Paltrow with Valentino, and Jennifer Lawrence and Marion Cotillard with Dior. Alexander Wang is said to be working on a custom Balenciaga look for Julianne Moore.
Some dates are sure to become talking points, like Debbie Harry and Nicki Minaj with Tommy Hilfiger, or the Fanning sisters, Elle and Dakota, with the Mulleavy sisters, Kate and Laura, of Rodarte. Joseph Altuzarra is bringing Allison Williams, Brian Atwood has Elizabeth Banks, Christopher Kane has Stella Tennant, and Peter Copping has Carolyn Murphy. Emma Roberts is attending with Diane von Furstenberg, Jessica Alba with Tory Burch, and Jaime King and Julianne Hough will be the guests of Topshop. Solange Knowles is coming with Humberto Leon and Carol Lim of Kenzo. Gisele Bundchen is said to be trying on an Anthony Vaccarello. Riccardo Tisci and Rooney Mara, two of the chairpersons, are coming together, so presumably she will be wearing Givenchy. And there will be many, many more.
Can any of them get punk just right?
“The one woman who could is Cher,” said Silver. “She wore a Mohawk to get an Oscar.”
One can only dream.
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