Meghan Powers ’23 and Marius DeMartino ’25 break down the best and worst of “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.”
On the first Monday in May, the two of us sat on a couch in Hanover and watched celebrities arrive on the red carpet at the Met Gala, an annual fundraiser for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, in New York City.
The biggest faux fashion show of the year, the Met Gala offers a chance for celebrities, from Serena Williams to Olivia Rodrigo, to collaborate with fashion designers to embody a theme, usually with a one-of-a-kind design. This year’s theme, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” paid tribute to the larger-than-life Lagerfeld, who passed away in 2019 after a long career as creative director for iconic fashion houses including CHANEL, Fendi and Chloé.
Honoring Lagerfeld was a contentious decision, considering Lagerfeld’s controversial reputation and his history of racist and misogynistic comments, but Met Gala attendees nonetheless praised Lagerfeld for his personal warmth and undeniable impact on the fashion industry. The 2023 theme inevitably led to some pretty boring looks on the fashion front: Consider the endless iterations of black and white tweed resuscitated from the CHANEL archives. As we watched the Vogue livestream in elastic waistbands, we formed plenty of opinions on the highs and lows of this year’s red carpet.
Our first question: What on Earth did they do to the red carpet? This year’s carpet at the Met was white with blue and red stripes, and looked more like something to put on your toothbrush than to walk on. Not to mention, it washed out the scores of black-and-white-clad celebrities paying tribute to Chanel’s classic color palette.
The moment we spotted Doja Cat on the screen, our spirits began to rise, particularly as the singer has increasingly become known for her full-throttle dedication to over-the-top looks. Wearing prosthetics that transformed her into a cat (Karl Lagerfeld’s beloved Choupette, to be precise), she was glamorously outfitted in an Oscar de la Renta dress. Jared Leto’s full cat costume paled in comparison to Doja’s tribute — we immediately added her to our best-dressed list.
This year’s theme inspired many excellent tributes to iconic fashion houses. Kristen Stewart, whose longtime affiliation with Chanel hasn’t always done her justice, looked great in a glamorously disheveled Chanel suit; Elle Fanning paid tribute to another recently deceased fashion legend in a Vivienne Westwood take on the Chanel bride; and Anne Hathaway, in one of the best looks of the night, combined the iconic Versace paperclip dress with Chanel’s signature tweed and camellia flowers to bring together the most dazzling dress that your grandmother would never wear. Some other highlights included Jenna Ortega’s magnificent Thom Browne pirate-esque creation, co-host Michaela Coel’s sheer bedazzled Schiaparelli gown, Ashley Graham’s voluminous pink Chanel recreation by Harris Reed and — who else — Rihanna’s 10 p.m. arrival to the red carpet, resplendent in a Valentino bridal creation featuring the enormous train that has become her Met Gala calling card.
A$AP Rocky was among several men who showed up in force this year — a pleasant surprise considering the parade of forgettable tuxedos that typically plague the Met. A$AP’s Lagerfeld-inspired Gucci kilt served him beautifully at Rihanna’s side, while Bad Bunny’s backless Jacquemus suit provided a real menswear highlight. Lil Nas X wore little beyond silver body paint and a feline mask— falling somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between Jared Leto’s nightmare-inducing suit and Doja’s well-played Choupette.
Now to acknowledge the elephant in the room: the presence of the Kardashian-Jenners. Despite rumors they wouldn’t be in attendance this year, three Kardashians made an appearance. Kim Kardashian nodded to Chanel beads with a pearl-laden Schiaparelli dress, while Kendall Jenner, putting a twist on Lagerfeld’s well-known suit, wore a bodysuit paired with stunning platform boots. Kylie wore a blue and red Jean Paul Gaultier, a nice pop of color that was nonetheless underwhelming.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper fashion review if we didn’t dwell on the night’s misfires. Rami Malek’s Prada suit appeared as if he’d left the house missing a few pieces. Olivia Wilde and Vogue China Editor-in-Chief Margaret Zhang both wore recreations of the same vintage Chloé guitar dress, raising the dress question as old as time: black and blue, or white and gold? We were devastated to realize that Sydney Sweeney still has yet to be styled in a way that complements how naturally beautiful she is; instead she was swallowed by a prom dress the color of an earthworm. Suki Waterhouse’s dress, while something one might window shop at Anthropologie, seemingly bore no relation to the night’s theme, and it combined with Robert Pattinson’s bland suit to yield a poor performance for the couple’s first Met.
This year’s Met Gala certainly fulfilled its purpose of honoring the legacy of Karl Lagerfeld, but it’s hard to assign further praise. Such a narrow scope made it difficult for designers to move beyond the monochromatic looks or pearl-adorned dresses that so many celebrities sported this year. Past themes, like 2018’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” or 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass,” allowed the major fashion houses to put their own unique spin on a broader theme. Despite a number of adequately impressive looks, there weren’t many showstoppers this year — so here’s hoping next year’s Met will be a little more freewheeling. Whatever the case, you can be sure that, armed with our sweatpants and extremely limited fashion credentials, we will once again pass judgment on one of the year’s most important fashion extravaganzas.