Puttin’ on the ritz at The Met Gala 2014

Fred Astaire once sang of  “spangled gowns upon the bevy of high brows” when one decides to go about “puttin’ on the ritz”, as it goes. Prior to the big reveal of all of the big gowns on Monday evening in New York word had it that Anna Wintour wanted 2014’s Met gala to signal a return to “old world elegance on the red carpet”. The high society theme was dubbed White Tie and Decorations, and that’s precisely what was requested on the $25,000 invites, so it was certainly appreciated when we observed that almost every attendee followed the strict dress code.

003mAnna Wintour in Chanel Haute Couture

017mKarolina Kurkova in Marchesa, with Harry Winston jewels

035mArizona Muse in Ralph & Russo, with De Beers jewels and Smythson clutch

This year’s annual gala, fashion’s biggest night of the year, honoured one of the grandest couturiers of them all, Charles James, though British born, America’s first messiah to the cloth, James was praised by Cristóbal Balenciaga for being the “only one in the world who has raised dressmaking from an applied art to pure art”. His eminent couture craftsmanship currently forms the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan museum and it was a fitting ode when many luminaries decided to traverse the red velveteen carpet in Rockefeller-worthy billowing ball gowns inspired by James.

020mLiu Wen in Zac Posen, with David Yurman jewels.

034mZac Posen with Karen Elson and Dita Von Teese, both in dresses by the designer and Van Cleef & Arpels jewels

052mCharlize Theron in Dior Haute Couture and Fred Leighton jewels, with Sean Penn

The simple, yet mighty, forms and an inclination for block colour would have delighted James, who sadly remains largely unknown to those who don’t care to be in the know, while the classic cuts that avoided gimmicks this year, hallelujah, were impossible to not adore.

Standout numbers for Glass included Karolina Kurkova who appeared to be having a ball in ornate floral Marchesa, Arizona Muse in a scarlet silk Ralph & Russo S/S 14 gown and Liu Wen, a terrific teal vision in voluminous Zac Posen; quite fortunately each victorious couture garment brought back red carpet power.

Ardent Charles James enthusiast, Posen, was also responsible for many of the night’s most striking looks, from Karen Elson to his date, Dita Von Teese. Many went for sleek monochromatic looks, mostly the darling couples, such as David and Victoria Beckham and Charlize Theron, in Dior couture, and Sean Penn, and we think the white-tie rule, which resulted in many a dapper gent, had something to do with this.

122mTabitha Simmons in Dolce and Gabbana Alta Moda

066mCara Delevingne in Stella McCartney, with jewels by Cartier

010mSuki Waterhouse in custom Burberry with a Roger Vivier clutch

"Charles James: Beyond Fashion" Costume Institute Gala - Arrivals
Sarah Paulson in custom Prada

Distancing themselves from the simplistic, Tabitha Simmons, in one of the many daring Dolce & Gabbana pieces, and Suki Waterhouse in custom Burberry, fancied a frou frou spectacular. Removing themselves further from the “Jamesian” house style, Rihanna and Cara “just here to photobomb” Delevingne, dressed by Stella McCartney, defied the norm with charm. However, Delevingne’s Cartier Panthère necklace and bracelet set, which would have inspired envy within Wallis Simpson, led the jewelled splendour for the evening, goading a number of other eye-catching sparkles centered on numerous décolletages.

A little more graceful congruence wouldn’t have gone a miss, yes, but the two words that have been associated closely with Charles James are “Beyond Fashion”, and that does afford a level of interpretation to some extent. So for all the encrusted Vuitton mini-dresses and resplendent mesh Prada two-pieces, we salute the belles of the Met Ball for not only going beyond fashion, but beyond the grain, this year.

by Liam Feltham

Images courtesy of Style.com