AP; Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Saks Fifth Avenue
Ah, the Met Gala: the glamor, the drama, the wall-to-wall celebrities—and their accidental trips on those famous stairs!
Then there are the moments I'll never forget. Like, Rihanna being one of the last to arrive in 2010 only to shut it down in her Dolce and Gabbana suit. Or Madonna marching right up to me last year, in panties (hey, the theme was punk!), to do her first interview. And Kanye West snapping photos of a very pregnant Kim Kardashian, who was clad in a floral number by Riccardo Tisci.
So, what can we expect from this year's Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala? "A high class affair," says Vogue magazine's Beauty Director, Sarah Brown, adding, "This year it's all about a return to formality." Days before one of fashion's biggest events, I chatted with Brown at Vogue HQ to get the scoop on this year's white tie event, which celebrates the "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" exhibition. Here's what I found out:
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The final guest list is under lock and key, but come on…we need to know!
I've had a peek at the guest list and it's incredible. It's really a who's who of everyone you care about in fashion, in Hollywood, every model, every sort of amazing super-chic woman or man.
Can appearing at the gala wearing a show-stopping look really raise a celebrity's status to the next level?
I think so. If you look at past years, I think people gained a lot of fashion credibility from being a standout at the Met. We've had the biggest names in music, fashion, everything. We have politicians. We have NBA players. We have NFL players. It's really fun, especially when someone who isn't necessarily known for fashion shows up at the Met and looks incredible. I think it does add another element to their public persona.
Charles James was all about structure and wiring in his clothing. How are people going to get up the Met stairs in heavy dresses?
I fell over one year! I got to the top and I just sort of went (down). You need to walk with someone. Guy, girl—it doesn't matter. It's really nice to have that arm to steady you because the dress, the stairs, the lights, the nerves!
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It's a few days before the gala. What's going on behind the scenes here at the Vogue offices?
It's probably the busiest it is all year here. We've got actresses, celebrities and models coming in for fittings. A lot of people like to come in and consult with us about what they're wearing. They want our expertise. Our stylists are busy all day monitoring tailors (going) in and out. We're talking to makeup artists and hairstylists. It's the most exciting time of the year here. We're all getting ready for the Gala ourselves. We're looking for our own dresses, setting up our own hair and makeup, figuring out what our look is going to be and how it fits in the theme.
Speaking of the theme, break it down for us: Who is Charles James? Because the fashion community knows him…but the rest of the world? Not so much.
Charles James is called the "Great American Couturier." He's a little-known designer who was massively important in the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, and on into the ‘70s. He had incredible admirers among Christian Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, James Galanos, but a lot of people didn't know him here at home. He dressed some of the most beautiful women of the day: Millicent Rogers, Babe Paley—the fashion icons. They were all his couture clients. He was known for incredible drapery. His clothes are very sculptural, architectural. He cared about draping. He cared about the seam. He would spend weeks on the single drape of one sleeve. He was really a perfectionist.
We know the dresses are going to be high-glamour. But what will be on display as far as make-up and hair?
When Charles James was in his heyday it was the late ‘40s, early ‘50s. That was right after the end of World War II. People were going out again and there was this return of what I'll call "occasion dressing." People were going to balls. People were dressing for dinner. People were dressing for their day. With those beautifully tailored clothes went a beautifully tailored look to match because the formality of the clothes really called for it. So in terms of beauty, I'm hoping that we'll see a lash. I think we'll see a lip. I really think it's the year of the lash. It was on all the runways. It's a really exaggerated, beautiful lash. I also think we'll be seeing a really polished face.
How about the head-to-toe look?
I think hair for the most part will be back because this year it's about white tie and decorations. That is the dress code. So men will be in tails. Women are going to be in floor-dusting ball gowns. It's really a ball gown year, which is so much fun. I think we'll see bare shoulders. I think we'll see major jewelry. With a bare shoulder and a statement dress I think it's a great time to take your hair back to show off the dress. I don't know if it's a time for hair that's down your back—although that would be sort of rebellious and look great too!
I think we're going to see a lot of up-dos, chignons, buns and ballerina buns. We're going to see gloves. I've been thinking this will be a problem for Instagramers. We're all going to be taking our gloves off and on all night long trying to Instagram and Tweet! I think we're going to be seeing decorations in the hair. That's something that's been on a lot of the runways, it's also something that's carried over from the Met last year. Last year, Jaime King wore a spiked crown. People wore safety pins in their hair. This year I think it's going to be about flowers, jewels, real and costume.