Thursday, May 15, 2008

Costume Institute gala

The select few who are lucky enough to snag an invite to the annual Costume Institute gala (a.k.a. the Oscars of the East) are encouraged, nay, obliged, to push the sartorial envelope. And with this year's "Superheroes" theme—one that's brimming with caped possibility—the task appeared almost too easy. But as it turned out, many of the glitterati making their way up the steps of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art had circumvented the theme and opted for glamour served straight up. Fortunately for the ever-growing group of stylewatchers who monitor this event with the intensity of a comic-book nerd on the trail of a first-run copy of Spider-Man, others embraced the night's motif.

Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, who co-hosted the gala with Giorgio Armani, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney, set the tone in a space-age Chanel couture bolero and gown, modeled after the X-Men's Storm. Lake Bell, a guest of the magazine, wore a Balmain dress zipping with Shazam lightning bolts picked out in crimson beads. Certainly Claire Danes looked tough (and chic) enough to save lives in a graphic, strappy Narciso Rodriguez gown. And in her gold, almost winged Atelier Versace dress, a glowing Amber Valletta took the superhero to heavenly heights. Gareth Pugh, meanwhile, was dressed as Karl Lagerfeld, giant rings and all. His rationale: ″I came as my superhero.″

Some guests were first-timers to the Met and its attendant paparazzi gauntlet. "When they take a photo of me, I'm just like, 'Oh, my God, that's amazing that you know who I am,'" said a giddy Bell. A frazzled Blake Lively accidentally knocked a tape recorder out of a reporter's hand. "Oh, my gosh, I am so sorry," she said, sounding genuinely mortified. "My superhero power is breaking your thing." Of course, with an event as major as this, merely getting dressed requires near-heroic feats. "My husband put my Spanx on me tonight because I had wet nails," said Thandie Newton.

Once inside, guests were ushered past three enormous Nathan Crowley statues of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman and into the Temple of Dendur, where trumpeters heralded the dinner call. "Hail Caesar!" joked Chris Noth. At the Armani table, Julia Roberts and Victoria Beckham bonded over motherhood, while Tom Cruise leaned over Katie Holmes and licked her neck. Following dinner, guests were treated to a medley of songs from the Public Theater's production of Hair, but the star performance of the night came later at the Bungalow 8 after-party, where Fergie and John Mayer serenaded birthday boy George Clooney with a rendition of "You Make Me Feel So Young."

— Evelyn Crowley, with additional reporting by Tim Blanks

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