Weird and Wild Styles from The Met Gala Ball

New York, New York: Bad news for fans of freaky fashion. Manhattan’s Met Gala has been indefinitely postponed, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The annual fundraising fete, which benefits the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is best known as a balls-to-the-wall competition among outrageously clad celebrities attempting to induce a) shock, b) lust, c) jealousy, d) outrage, e) retinal haemorrhage f) all of the above, as they swan up the museum’s red carpeted steps each May.

Cardi B at the Met Gala Ball in 2019.

Grammy Award-winning Cardi B at the Met Gala Ball in 2019. Photo found here.

While the stars may be unable to shine at the gala this year, fear not. For your viewing confusion, I’m hooking you up with some  of the weirdest, most wanton confections from the past—and looking back at the far-fetched creations from the Met’s 2016 exhibitManus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology.”

The 2020 fete was due to fall on May the 4th, which could have inspired all sorts of “May the Fourth Be With You” Star Wars fetish-wear. It wouldn’t be the first time that the rich and famous looked to George Lucas’s intergalactic heroes for sartorial tips.

In 2016, for instance, two celebs battled to bag the prize for primo C3PO impersonation. Kim Kardashian wriggled down the runway swathed in tailored tinfoil, while Zayn Malik—i.e. “the One Direction dude with ALL the eyebrows”—accessorised his tux with cast-off car parts.

Zayn Malik at the 2016 Met Gala Ball

Zayn Malik. Photo found here.

Kim Kardashian at 2016 Met Gala Ball

Kim Kardashian. Photo found here.

So, how did this annual benefit become synonymous with outré couture? We may have Cher to thank (or blame…or both). Back in ’74, arguably the greatest “don’t give a damn” grande dame of all time squeaked up to the Met in what amounted to bedazzled Saran Wrap, helping to pave the way for future flesh-flashing chanteuses like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.

Cher at the 1974 Met Gala Ball

Cher (left, as if you hadn’t already guessed that) at the Met Gala in 1974. Image found here.

By 2016, Madonna seemed keen to turn back time with this cheeky combo of black lace and…Ace bandages?

Madonna at the Meta Gala in 2016.

Madonna at the Meta Gala in 2016. Photo found here.

How does one top Madonna’s bottom? Beyoncé somehow managed it by posing in a figure-hugging, flesh-coloured latex body condom, which one Instagrammer reckoned was actually the skin of her husband’s alleged mistress. WHOA.

Beyonce at the Met Gala in 2016

Beyonce at the Met Gala in 2016. Photo found here.

In 2018, Rihanna’s dope pope ensemble proved to be a controversial Hail Mary, moving the fashion goalposts even further downfield.

Rihanna dressed as the pope at the Met Gala Ball in 2018.

Rihanna at the Met Gala Ball in 2018. Photo found here.

2019 may have been the best/worst year yet. Take, for instance, Katie Perry’s candelabra couture. Was she auditioning for the part of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast, or was this the flamboyant singer’s version of wearing a lampshade on her head?

Katie Perry at the Met Gala Ball in 2019.

Katie Perry at the Met Gala Ball in 2019. Photo found here.

Speaking of heads, one might argue that actor Jared Leto was off his when he appeared with a waxwork of his own the same year.

Jared Leto at the Meta Gala in 2019.

Jared Leto at the Meta Gala in 2019. Photo found here.

But the Met Ball may have reached its zenith with the regal apparition of actor Billy Porter, attired like a glittering Egyptian god with the wings of a phoenix. Porter didn’t so much “walk” the red carpet. Rather, he was transported on a velvet litter supported by six buff men in gold collars, cuffs…and not much else.

Bill Porter at the Meta Gala in 2019.

Bill Porter at the Meta Gala in 2019. Photo found here.

Lest you think these looks are a bit “try hard,” consider this. These folks have got serious competition for the spotlight—not only among one another, but from the glad rags on display at the Met’s annual fashion exhibit, which they are ostensibly there to support.

You can’t just slip on a simple satin sheath and rhinestone sandals when, inside the hallowed hall’s of the museum’s costume institute, you might be sashaying past a bridal bikini composed of strategically placed roses or a ravenesque dress…made from plastic straws.

straw dress & bride bikini

Left: Dress hand-embroidered with black drinking straws, by Gareth Pugh. Courtesy of Gareth Pugh. Right: Floral bridal bikini by Yves Saint Laurent for Saint Laurent, Courtesy of Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent, Paris. Photos © Amy Laughinghouse

Those were just two of the looks on display at 2016’s “Manus x Machina,”  which showcased more than 170 designs and examined how innovations like 3-D printing, computer modelling and ultrasonic welding (whatever that is) blurred the lines between haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear styles. Here are the top ten ogle-worthy fashions I spotted at the exhibit.

Scariest Skeleton in the Closet

What do you get when you peel away Beyonce’s “skin suit?” Possibly this skeleton tutu, a 3-D fantasy by Dutch born designer Iris van Herpen.

3-printed white polyamide skeleton dress by Iris van Herpen. Photo credit Amy Laughinghouse.

Skeleton dress by Iris van Herpen. Photo credit Amy Laughinghouse.

Most Fashion Forward (and Reverse, Presumably)

You don’t exactly wear Hussein Chalayan’s “Kaikoku” Floating Dress. You drive it.

The designer breaks it down for us. “The wearer enters the dress (which is made of gold-painted cast fiberglass) through a rear-access panel,” he explains, “and the entire garment, which is on wheels, is operated via remote control.”

Hmmm. Could it be just the ticket for an eye-catching entrance, or is this a prime candidate for a catwalk costume malfunction? We’ll let the fashion police decide.

“Kaikoku” Floating Dress by Hussein Chalayan, autumn/winter 2011–12 prêt-à-porter. Courtesy of Swarovski. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

“Kaikoku” Floating Dress by Hussein Chalayan. Courtesy of Swarovski. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Most Creative Solution to a Bad Hair Day

You won’t need a hairdresser, or make-up for that matter, when you shimmy into this gimp gown of nude lace and black patent leather by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Perfect for movie stars who want to maintain their anonymity when they’re papped tumbling out of taxis without their undergarments.

Dress of nude silk lace, tulle, and patent leather by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Spring/summer 2012, prêt-à-porter. Courtesy of Alexander McQueen. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse.

Dress of nude silk lace, tulle, and patent leather by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. Courtesy of Alexander McQueen. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse.

Easiest to Pack

Issey Miyake’s “Flying Saucer” dress, composed of pleated polychrome polyester, collapses like an accordion to comfortably fit in your carry-on. If you have an irrational fear of Jack-in-the-Boxes, however, this may not be the dress for you.

"Flying Saucer” Dress by Issey Miyake for Miyake Design Studio, spring/summer 1994 prêt-à-porter. Courtesy of The Miyake Issey Foundation. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

“Flying Saucer” Dress by Issey Miyake for Miyake Design Studio. Courtesy of The Miyake Issey Foundation. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Best Use of Bird Skulls

Okay, so this may be the only dress that incorporates gull skulls, but Iris van Herpen’s pink feathered frock is definitely a doozy.

bird skulls_1863

Dress by Iris van Herpen. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Best Interpretation of a Fashion Victim

Hussein Chalayan’s molded polyurethane foam dress isn’t so much an accident waiting to happen as his vision of an accident unfolding before our eyes. According to Hussein, the racy number on the right is meant to evoke “the cause and effect of a crash in one moment.”

The biggest danger I foresee, however, is trying to sit in it.

Crash dress_1911

Dress of molded polyurethane foam airbrushed with crushed automobile imagery by Hussein Chalayan. Courtesy of Hussein Chalayan. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Sexiest Space Alien

Captain Kirk couldn’t have resisted a vixen from Venus sporting Iris van Herpen’s 3-D printed, peek-a-boo pleated top, especially paired with a fringed miniskirt designed to reveal a great pair of legs…or shapely tentacles, as the case may be.

Ensemble by Iris van Herpen, spring/summer 2010 haute couture. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Ensemble by Iris van Herpen. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Scuba Dooba I Do

Who wouldn’t say yes to this dress by Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel? The price tag may have you feeling a bit underwater, buy hey, no worries. It’s made of scuba knit! Of course, if you’re actually planning to take the nuptial dive by, well, taking a dive, the 30-foot glittering gold embroidered train may look a bit worse for wear after being dragged across a coral seabed.

Most Likely to Blow a Kleinfeld Bride’s Mind: Wedding ensemble by Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel, autumn/winter 2014–15 haute couture. Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Most Likely to Blow a Kleinfeld Bride’s Mind: Wedding ensemble by Karl Lagerfeld for House of Chanel. Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection. Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

Handiest for House Cleaning

Give the maid the day off. You’ll get the dusting done in a jiffy with a quick whirl around your 5,000-square-foot penthouse apartment in this House of Balenciaga feathered confection.

feather duster_1859

Evening dress with hand-glued ostrich feathers by Cristobal Balenciaga for House of Balenciaga. Gift of Charles B. Wrightsman. © Amy Laughinghouse

Most Fashionable Post-Gala Guest Appearance
The divas of the red carpet weren’t the only fashionistas threatening to steal the spotlight from the likes of Karl Lagerfeld. Artist Lynx Alexander turned heads at the Met’s members-only preview on May 3 in this flyaway tie he made himself.

Lynx Alexander_1815

Visual artist Lynx Alexander in a tie of his own design, pictured at “Manus X Machina.” Photo © Amy Laughinghouse

“I’m never at a loss for words,” he insisted. “But this exhibition has left me speechless.”

He may have been tongue-tied, but Alexander, who designs a new tie every day, was also inspired. “I’ll probably create a new one tomorrow based on what I’ve seen here today.”

Social media links

Twitter: @metmuseum #metgala

Instagram: @metmuseum #metgala

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