The Met Gala 2023: Is This Really What Karl Would’ve Wanted?
I know you’re all expecting me to go, “Well if you knew your fashion history, you’d know that Karl himself said that he hates nostalgia, so creating an entire event dedicated to his nostalgia seems blasphemous blah blah blah,” but a simple pleasure of mine is defying expectation, so I’m not going to say that, and instead say that Anna Wintour – a long-time close friend of Karl’s – certainly knows better than I. I also know that Karl Lagerfeld (like most geniuses of their time) was prone to be a little narcissistic, and I’m sure would be delighted to have the Met Gala dedicated to his memory. I mean, wouldn’t we all?
As much as Karl Lagerfeld made a name for himself as a designer in his own right, and one of the most prominent designers of Chanel, I never found most of his clothing to be wildly astonishing. Of course, it would be absolutely wrong of me to say he has never done anything interesting, because that’s wildly untrue, but there comes a time when tweed, pearls, Carnelian flowers and blazers just don’t do it for you anymore.
But let’s not talk ill of his memory; instead, let’s talk ill (and good, of course) of the present-day folks, specifically those lucky enough to be dressed by the designers of today and attend the Met Gala, a.k.a. Christmas day for the fashion pack.
Please forgive me for focussing on womenswear – I find menswear (even at this level) to be largely boring, and there are only so many variations of a tux that I can see before I think it’s just another tux. This is a matriarchy, and I am living in it.
Anyway, let’s begin.
All eyes were on the muses of the late fashion legend, such as Cara Delevingne, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Devon Aoki, Alexa Chung… I could go on. Notably missing was Claudia Schiffer, who was one of Karl’s absolute favourites, and modelled a lot of the pieces that inspired the outfits the celebs wore on the Colgate-themed carpet. A surprising amount of people had no idea who Devon Aoki is (yes, sister of DJ Steve Aoki), who was one of the most prominent models of the ‘90s and absolutely slayed whatever she modelled. As a tribute she was dressed by Jeffrey Scott (yes, we all hoped when he retired, we’d seen the last of him), and although the winged gown featured beautiful draping, it was a shame not to see her in vintage Chanel.
Cara went for a minidress with a flowing cape, paired with leather leg warmers. Overall, a confusing look that was meant to be an ode to Karl’s love of tailoring and fingerless gloves, created by his eponymous brand (which was never very good, sorry to say) but I would’ve loved to see her in something dainty and feminine, which was how Karl loved to dress her.
Priyanka Chopra also went down the gloved route, but as hers were white rather than black, she ended up channelling Michael Jackson rather than Karl – markedly different people, although both creative geniuses. Fingerless gloves were rife, with Ashley Park, Conan Gray, and Olivier Rousteing all sporting the look, among others. Simu Liu went for the full gloved look, channelling Karl’s love for tailoring but through Versace’s OTT lens. This means detail on every surface, from the ruched blazer to the bejewelled shirt underneath. Perhaps too much detail compared to Lagerfeld’s tasteful restraint.
Where Anne Hathawill, Anne Hathaway. I didn’t even have to research this to know it’s Versace (ahem, safety pins), but Donatella showed an unusual amount of restraint with the tweed fabric, elegantly transforming a quintessential Versace shape into a Chanel tribute, complete with Camellia flowers over the breasts and strong accessories. Paired with a matching blazer hung effortlessly from fingertips, Anne’s outfit is surely the best get-up of the night – at least in my books. 100/10.
Pedro Pascal stayed true to form by baring his slutty little knees in a Valentino number, which consisted of tailored shorts, boots, and a long red coat. Pedro is never one to shy away from a feminine look, so let’s not miss the embellished tie and his Valentino-themed nails. Always an icon, and always looking fabulous in bold colours – which he’s delightfully leaned into recently.
Thom Browne dressed plenty of celebs this year, from Jenna Ortega to Alexander Skarsgaard to Bella Ramsey. Sora Choi is perhaps the only instance where I’ve seen a Thom Browne look and thought, ‘Wow, that is a showstopper.’ Normally the brand for me is too preppy (however contemporary) and too American, but Sara Choi’s voluminous ode to Vogue’s Karl tribute issue created an impactful and dynamic silhouette that exuded a regal and statuesque mood. One of the best dressed of the evening.
On the other hand, let’s look at Ashley Park. Ashley Park is the perfect example of someone who wants to slay so badly, has the will and the ability to slay, and just unfortunately never quite makes it. Although she always looks beautiful, Michael Kors leaves something to be desired here; with the high neckline, long sleeves, and long lengthy trailed gown, the gloves feel like she’s covering up the one ounce of skin that would have balanced out this look. I know the fingerless gloves are a Karl signature, but here I feel they’re an overkill, and perhaps the designer could’ve honed in on the pearls and chain belt detail rather than overdone the fabric.
If you know anything about Chanel, you’ll know that Camellia flowers are a House signature – but the designer’s recreations of some of them did make me laugh. Bad Bunny was dressed by Jacquemus (his first time designing for the Met gala), and although it was a strong look, it reminded me of the childhood birthday party games where you had to create a look with toilet paper – or was that just me? God knows I’ve made a few toilet paper flowers in my time.
Maya Hawke went down a similar route in her Prada get-up, with the white coat and mini dress featuring hundreds of dainty flowers that sprung off the fabric, yet only once she removed the coat did we see four long trailing ribbons coming off the back which flowed in the breeze, and was reminiscent of someone blowing a roll of toilet paper through a leaf blower behind her. Unfortunate, as the rest of the look was 10/10. Perhaps next time, let’s make the ribbons smaller in width and less evocative of bathroom hygiene paraphernalia.
Normally Alexa Chung easily makes the best dressed list, however this year she missed the mark. Karl’s finale bridal looks were some of his most memorable, so it makes sense that many celebs dressed up as his coveted brides. With flowers, lace, and ribbons, you would think the piece has all it needs to make a delightful design, however this creation from Roisin Pierce feels twee and dated, with the ruched satin and fishtail skirt. Perhaps the whole look could’ve been saved if it weren’t for the atrocious headpiece, which with bows, flowers, a headband, and many little of Alexa’s plaits, makes it look like a baby’s bonnet from the 1800s – and not in a good way. Sorry Alexa, you’ve been charged with fashion jailtime. A first for her, I’m sure.
Elle Fanning shows bridalwear done right, dressed in Vivienne Westwood – yet showcasing Karl’s love of tiered silhouettes, lace, and floral headpieces with long-tailed bows. Exquisite. No notes.
Every fashion person jokes about the dreaded Chanel ambassadorship, for although you get a killer discount from the eye-wateringly highly price-pointed brand, you also get caged into wearing the most mind-numbingly boring ensembles. Although Margot Robbie is thankfully free of her contract, she still (and God knows why) wears Chanel occasionally, though understandable for a Karl tribute event. The best dressed out of the Chanel fashion pack was Kristen Stewart who was actually dressed in a menswear inspired suit from the Cruise 2016 collection, which not only suits her androgynous aesthetic, but is one of Karl’s classically good pieces. Jennie Kim from K-Pop group Blackpink was sadly one of the worst dressed of the bunch, and although there was nothing wrong with her look per se (apart from opaque tights, which should be worn sparingly and layered under leg warmers) it felt casual and boring.
It would be remiss of me to talk about Karl without mentioning Choupette. His treasured companion, the adorable cat is an heiress in her own right, amassing a $3 million fortune during her life, and inheriting a portion of Lagerfeld’s estate. It’s said she has her own maids to look after her, and owns several properties. Let me drum this home: Choupette is a cat. But no matter, she is an icon in her own right, which is why Doja Cat dressed up as Choupette complete with facial prosthetics – even doing her Vogue interview with Emma Chamberlain by only replying with “Meow” to whatever question that was asked. Jared Leto also dressed up as a furry for his second tour of the white carpet, further solidifying my opinion that Leto is like that weird guy you meet at a music festival one time who know thinks you’re best friends, and all of a sudden you can’t shake him like a bad STD, and has little to no awareness of the fact that you know longer think his over-familiarity charming, but somehow ends up being on the guestlist of every party you attend. Yes, can you tell I know a few people like him? I can spot them from a mile away, and Jared Leto is one of them.
Let’s finish off with Nicole Kidman, who wore her iconic dress from the Chanel No.5 commercial from 2004, directed by Baz Luhrmann. She’s one of those women that we all aspire to be, who looks just as good know almost 20 years later as she did back then – perhaps even more so. Although we must remember that ageing is a gift, that woman sure knows how to age gracefully – and aren’t we jealous.