We all had unusually high expectations for the red carpet at this year’s Met Gala. After all, the event, already dubbed the “Super Bowl of Fashion,” was to honor Rei Kawakubo, a designer who revels in the extreme and unexpected. Surely the fashion glitterati would rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, we were met with disappointment after disappointment as the world’s biggest models, actors, musicians and “influencers” strutted down the industry’s biggest red carpet in gowns that hugged bodies, cinched waists, and more often than not were slit to the thigh. Worse yet—there was hardly any Comme des Garçons to be found.
But what were we expecting? Kendall Jenner in a body-dwarfing dress reminiscent of a trash bag? Bella Hadid in an oversized, deconstructed suit? Selena Gomez in an egg-like shell that constricted her arms? How would she have draped them around The Weeknd? The problem is not that fashion’s biggest names didn’t meet our expectations; the problem is that our expectations were far too high for the current crop of fashion’s biggest names.
They are not the type of people interested in pushing the boundaries of fashion—or even in honoring someone as iconic and influential as Kawakubo (that is, if they’re even familiar with her work outside of the CDG Supreme collaborations). These are the type of people interested in maintaining their extreme, otherworldly "hotness," which ironically, doesn’t exactly mesh with the Comme des Garçons aesthetic.
The last time a designer with a vision as similarly singular as Kuwakubo’s was honored at the Met Gala was Alexander McQueen back in 2011. The red carpet looks were appropriately magnificent. Daphne Guinness wore a high-necked, floor-skimming gown made entirely of feathers. Anna Dello Russo looked like a high-fashion matador, in a tailored suit with gold leaf accents (both McQueen). The non-McQueen looks paid homage to the designer, be it with romantic silhouettes (Ashley Olsen in vintage Dior), painstaking embroidery (Beyoncé in Pucci) or gothic influences (Crystal Renn in Zac Posen). Instagram was barely a "thing," and there was nary a Hadid nor Jenner in sight.
Though McQueen is more traditionally red carpet-friendly than Comme, that alone does not account for why the 2011 Met Gala red carpet makes this year’s look like a particularly bad Oscars. The major players—the ones who dominated slideshows the next morning—were simply more interesting. Those women (emphasis on women–the median age of attendees was probably a decade older than at last night’s event) were more concerned with making a jaw-dropping fashion statement than simply looking sexy.
While today’s class of social media-savvy fashionistas started popping up at Met Galas as early as 2014 (at which Kendall Jenner looked surprisingly chic in a strapless, blush pink Topshop gown), they didn’t truly dominate the event until last year. It was the first time people were more interested in what Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner were wearing than what Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell had on. Luckily, the theme, Manus x Machina, was easily adaptable to the body-hugging, sheer looks favored by the Instagram set—all they needed to do was incorporate a little extra silver.
In hindsight, we should have seen last year’s future-themed Met Gala, populated by shimmery, reflective 20-somethings, as a bad omen. Perhaps then we wouldn’t have been as disappointed when the very same 20-somethings ignored this year’s theme, one that was incongruent with looking as hot as humanly possible. Two of the overlords of this new class, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, took it one step further, opting to barely wear anything at all. Meanwhile, the supermodels, who can often be counted on for straight-from-the-runway designer digs, seemed to consist only of Victoria’s Secret girls in painfully basic, form-fitting gowns.
The problem is that these girls, while certainly interested in themselves, are not interested in individuality—at least not the sort of individuality Kawakubo’s clothes celebrate. We already know they will stop at nothing in pursuit of a homogenized physical perfection (their definition of it, anyway). What made us think they’d break trend to pay homage to a designer over five decades their senior?
Still, it wasn’t a total bore. Those who we would expect to turn it out–Rihanna, Solange, and Cara Delevingne–didn’t disappoint (especially Rihanna). There were even a couple delightful Comme moments, courtesy of Helen Lasichanh and Tracee Ellis Ross. But there was one attendee whose wildly unexpected outfit bridged the gap between Instagram and avant-garde. Model Lily Aldridge looked equal parts sexy, show-stopping and of-the-moment in a cutout number by Ralph Lauren Collection gown paired with thigh-high Balenciaga boots.
The golden age in which Moss, Dello Russo and Guinness reigned supreme may be in the past, but in Aldridge we can find a beacon of hope. Perhaps next year, if we’re lucky, a few influential members of the millennial fashion set will follow her example (at 31, she is their elder, after all). Still, unless all of these girls pull a Miley Cyrus over the forthcoming year, we’d best temper our expectations for next Met Ball.