Beauty

ACTION PACKED PARTY

Tim Blanks on the super-powered guest list at the Costume institute’s gala



 

Tim Blanks


 
Tim Blanks

ACTION PACKED PARTY
Tim Blanks on the super-powered guest list at the Costume institute’s gala

High fashion and haute Hollywood is one of the great love affairs of our time, and there was no better place to see them work it out than at the gala that launched the latest exhibition from The Costume Institute at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s called Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (running until Sept. 1) and the event’s timing couldn’t have been better: Iron Man just smashed box-office records.

You can only imagine there must be millions of people wondering at this chaotic point in history, “Who will save us now?” There’s a real yen for something super in politics, on TV, at the movies. And the media are always shlepping stories of every-day heroes, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The Costume Institute’s shows have a habit of crystallizing such pop-cultural groundswells. But what this show also underscores is how timeless the appeal of the superhero has been for designers. No surprises there, when you think that the essence of superheroism is escapism and transformation (sign in, please, Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince). The work of geniuses such as John Galliano and Thierry Mugler, both on show at The Met, taps exactly that vein.

Speaking of Diana Prince, one of the small pleasures of the Met gala was the appearance of Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter. Time has obviously been one enemy she couldn’t conquer, but she was gamely sporting her magic bracelets. A slightly too-slim-line George Clooney, whose Batman was surely a low point in his career, was a cohost for the evening, along with Julia Roberts and Anna Wintour, the driving force behind such Costume Institute events. All three stood in the receiving line with the exhibit’s sponsor, Giorgio Armani, and it was endlessly fascinating watching the various permutations of super-hosts and su-per-guests. Jennifer Lopez seemed remarkably good-natured about being shooed out of the way by the paps when David and Victoria Beckham reached Clooney and Roberts.

I toyed with the notion of wearing flippers with my tux but decided that my conceptual take on Aquaman would probably be mis-understood. Others weren’t so theme-shy. Wintour claimed inspiration from X-Men’s Storm for her silver Chanel Haute Couture dress. Zac Posen’s suit was a hue of Superman blue. Vogue’s Hamish Bowles wore a vintage Versace puffy jacket, which gave him Hulk-like bulk. Amber Valletta’s metallic couture gown by Donatella Versace was draped like a cape at the back. Gisele Bündchen wore Versace, too. “I’m Superwoman,” she said, almost unnecessarily, considering the way in which her dress high-lighted her super-assets, as did her super–arm candy, the NFL’s Tom Brady.

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Appropriately, the sponsor’s table had the greatest concentration of superstar power: Beyoncé, Clooney, Roberts, the Cruises and the Beckhams ringed Armani. It was a family affair—Armani has worked with them all, some for a long time. (Though Victoria, seated at her host’s left hand, could surely benefit from a little politesse; she sat with her back to Armani for long enough that he eventually moved around the table to more clement climes. Anyway, I sincerely doubt she speaks either French or Ital-ian, which are Giorgio’s languages of choice.)

As the dinner (in The Met’s Temple of Dendur, decked out like the Fortress of Solitude) came to an end, political superhero New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg introduced Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who introduced the evening’s entertainment, a selection of songs from the upcoming revival of Hair. (Let’s call that super-strange.) Then, a select few—among them, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino and Versace—trooped off to Armani’s birthday party for Clooney at Bungalow 8. After the extravagant display at The Met, that was the intimate equivalent of getting a room. High fashion and haute Hollywood just can’t keep their hands off each other.

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EDITOR, ELIO IANNACCI