Rihanna shut down the Met Gala carpet Monday encased in white camellias on a jacket with a long train gown. Janelle Monáe dropped a bulky coat to reveal a see-through cage and Jeremy Pope walked in a 32-foot cape emblazoned with the visage of Karl Lagerfeld.
In the spirit of Lagerfeld himself (he was not often on time), Rihanna and her Valentino couture had the carpet to themselves save her partner, A$AP Rocky, who wore a red tartan skirt over crystal-studded jeans with a train of his own. They showed up well past everyone else.
Around her neck was a short Bulgari necklace in Akoya cultured pearls and pearl-shaped diamonds.
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Lagerfeld was the honoree at the A-list gala with many in the crowd of about 400 dressed in vintage looks from the fashion houses where he worked during a career of more than 60 years.
But elegant wasn’t entirely the hallmark of the evening. Jared Leto dressed as Choupette, Lagerfeld’s beloved fluffy cat. Lil Nas X went full cat covered in crystals by Pat McGrath and Dior Men.
Bad Bunny showed up late in bright white from head to toe with a long cape also adorned with camellias, a Coco Chanel motif embraced by Lagerfeld. Monáe’s look, with a black sparkly leotard underneath, was made by Thom Browne.
Cardi B first donned pink then switched to a full black ballgown with, you guessed it, camellias. Up top, she said, “is giving Karl, the house of Chanel and Karl at the same time.” It was a men’s white collar shirt accent with a black men’s tie. The outfit in honor of Lagerfeld was done by an up-and-coming British design house, Chenpeng Studio.
“The Met Gala dress code was ‘in honor of Karl’ and guests definitely understood the assignment,” said Alison Cohn, deputy fashion news editor for Harper’s Bazaar. “They referenced the many signatures Karl Lagerfeld developed over his six-decade plus career.”
Many used boucle fabric (Teyana Taylor’s Thom Browne suit and Anne Hathaway’s Versace safety pin number). Also adorned in camellias were Emily Blunt in a Michael Kors blouse and Adut Akech in a Carolina Herrera gown.
Dua Lipa walked in a white Chanel ballgown from the fashion house’s archive and Nicole Kidman chose a look Lagerfeld himself made for her 20 years ago.
And there were some bombshells: Serena Williams wore a flapper Gucci look when she announced she’s pregnant with her second child.
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Lipa, a gala co-chair, wore a Tiffany & Co. diamond around her neck. She called her cream-colored dress, by Chanel from 1992, “very, very special” as it has been on her mood boards.
Claudia Schiffer wore the gown on the runway for its debut, although hers had a matching hat. Lipa’s necklace in platinum included a center diamond of more than 200 carats.
Nicole Kidman said it was Lagerfeld who ignited her fashion spark. She wore a pale pink gown created by Lagerfeld for a Chanel No. 5 commercial she starred in. It’s adorned with 3,000 silver crystals for the ad directed by Baz Luhrmann.
“I’m very grateful to wear it,” she told The Associated Press. “He was so much a part of my life, as were his whole team. He was the one really sort of shepherded me … in terms of my love of fashion.”
Kidman topped off her look with Harry Winston diamonds.
“My favorite look was Nicole Kidman’s ethereal feathered sequin Chanel gown. Typically stars wear new couture straight off the runway or have a custom look commissioned. It was a lovely statement about sustainability, proving that beautifully hand-crafted pieces never go out of style,” Cohn said.
Kim Kardashian, meanwhile, went with loops and loops of pearls all over her Schiaparelli look. And Cardi B went big in pink, complete with a feathery head piece. Brittney Griner wore a warm stone shade in a suit with a long jacket by Calvin Klein, who also dressed her wife, Cherelle Griner, in a sleek strapless column dress in white onyx.
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Many in the crowd counted Lagerfeld as a friend or worked with him at Chanel, Fendi, Chloe or one of the other fashion houses where he created.
And many guests wore black to walk the unusual carpet in a line design. It was a color Lagerfeld wore almost exclusively. Black-and-white combos were also plentiful.
Kristen Stewart wore the color duo in a suit with a cropped white jacket. And Cara Delevingne honored her old friend Lagerfeld with a ruffled white shirt look short in front with a train at the back. Ruffled shirts were among Lagerfeld’s favorites.
The classic colors weren’t for Viola Davis. She walked in a stunning neon pink strapless gown with long feathers at the bodice.
Frenchye M. Harris, CEO and founder of the online fashion site The Black Fashion Movement had one word for Davis: “Gorgeous!”
She called Anne Hathaway’s Chanel-inspired but Versace-created look with the pins and camellias at the breast “super cool and a great marriage between the brands.”
Gigi Hadid wore Givenchy in black with feathers, a drop waist and sheer train in tulle. It took more than 300 hours to make. Kendall Jenner was also in black, sans pants. She wore a sparkly leotard with long sleeves that has pieces doubling as a train. On her feet were kinky, towering black boots, all courtesy of Marc Jacobs.
Jenner’s high white collar was a nod to those worn by Lagerfeld. Her hair was in a high ponytail.
Rita Ora was also in black, a stunner of a peekaboo sheer look from Prabal Gurung. It was silk tulle with corset detailing and sexy draping in chiffon. One shoulder was dropped.
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Margot Robbie, who stars in this summer’s “Barbie” live-action film, wore a 1993 Chanel gown in black that Cindy Crawford first wore on a runway. Robbie said she was the last Chanel ambassador to be handpicked by Lagerfeld.
“I feel really great in it. It’s an honor,” she said.
The invitation-only gala earned $17.4 million last year for the museum’s Costume Institute, a self-funding department with a budget dependent on the gala’s success. The price of attending went up this year to $300,000 for a table and $50,000 for a single ticket.
The guests from fashion, film, music, theater, sports, tech and social media were asked to dress “in honor of Karl” by gala mastermind Anna Wintour, a close Lagerfeld friend who first signed on to the event in 1995 and took over the helm in 1999.
The party coincides with the Costume Institute’s blockbuster spring exhibition: “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”
American fashion was last year’s vibe. It followed gilded glamour and white tie. Camp was the theme in 2019, producing what is considered one of the wackiest displays of dress by the celebrity crowd.
Lagerfeld worked for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Jean Patou, Balmain, his own brand and more.
This year’s five hosts include Wintour, as usual, and also Michaela Coel, longtime Chanel ambassador Penélope Cruz, and recently retired tennis superstar Roger Federer.
Cruz looked like a bride with a sheer hood on her white Chanel belted gown with silver details from spring/summer couture collection in 1988.
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Asked how he got to be a Met Gala co-chair, Federer said it helps to know Wintour. He said it makes sense for athletes to be at the gala because they’ve become a bigger part of the fashion world in recent years.
“I think the sports people have gotten more and more fashionable,” Federer told the AP. “We’re fortunate to get onto covers much more frequently nowadays. Before it was always the models, the good-looking people, not the athletes.”
Fendi, where Lagerfeld worked for more than 20 years, was also represented. Suki Waterhouse wore a 2019 Fendi design by Lagerfeld in silk tulle and delicate flowers and birds on sheer panels.
Lagerfeld’s cat, Choupette, had been rumored to attend but her humans posted on Instagram earlier in the day the 11-year-old feline was staying put in Paris. Doja Cat’s cat-eared hood on a sparkling white and silver-beaded dress was an ode by Oscar de la Renta. She wore prosthetics that gave her a feline face and claws.
Chloe Fineman carried a cat-shaped bag and Emma Chamberlain wore “Choupette blue,” a light blue hue created by Lagerfeld. James Corden also showed up in the shade.
As for Leto, he swapped out his cat costume for a black caped look.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.