Costume Institute Gala 2011- Alexander McQueen: a Savage Beauty

The problem with high expectations is that you see them crushed under their own weight, most of the times, and this is what happened to me when I woke up this morning, ready to write about the Costume Institute Gala, which took place yesterday in New York. I was looking for many guests to take their Alexander McQueen dresses out of their closets to pay homage to the British designer, but nothing of what I expected happened, probably because some guests have never owned a McQueen creation, and in any case they preferred wearing something else. I know, I’m very disappointed but I guess this happens when you turn such an exclusive event into a circus: I don’t even want to start counting the tragic appearances on the red carpet – Rihanna with a braid; Fergie, it’s not your wedding day; Tina Knowles is the new creative director at Emilio Pucci; Joy Bryant with my mother’s sweater; Christina Hendricks, no words for you, honey.

With my heart broken, I started browsing gossip and fashion sites because I knew some treasures were hidden among the trash and I was fortunately right. As usual, I divided my best dressed list into three categories, according to the colours of the outfits.

The Ladies in Black

I can’t remember the last time I was in awe of Christina Ricci on the red carpet, but now I know why I used to like her so much. She walked the red carpet arm-in-arm with Zac Posen, who designed the amazing dress she wore. Posen’s flamboyant style has taken a Gothic turn in this dress, which is absolutely amazing: high collar, long sleeves and a dramatic mermaid line are only some of its characteristics. I love the delicately netted fabric, reminiscent of spiderwebs, another detail that gives the dress a dark vibe. Christina also wore Fred Leighton gold and ruby earrings and a black clutch. I’m not crazy of her hairstyle (I hate flying hair bands) but who cares, when the rest is so impressive?

This is a vision! Christina posed on the stairs, thus fully displaying the impressive train of her dress, made of tulle with cut-out hems. The bodice is impressive, as well, pinched so as to create some draped bands and thicker details.

After playing the role of the walking disaster at the Costume Institute Gala in 2009, Leighton Meester redeemed herself by wearing a sexy Louis Vuitton dress from the fall 2011 collection. The dress was made like a bustier, with vertical boning and horizontal thin bands, creating a sort of cage [1] (the same idea was featured in the pumps). She carried a Vuitton crocodile clutch with diamantè lock and cuff, a Cathy Waterman diamond mesh ring and matching earrings. I’m glad she styled her hair in a ponytail, thus emphasizing the mood of Vuitton’s fashion show.

One of the most beautiful models ever, Natalia Vodianova, arrived at the event with Valentino Garavani and wore one of his creations. The number with sequined and feathered bodice is from the Haute Couture fall 2007 collection. She looked so beautiful: the cat eye make-up emphasized her blue eyes and her updo was so chic. She carried an Alexander McQueen skull red crocodile box clutch and wore tiny diamond stud earrings and matching ring.

I was quite sad when I couldn’t find any picture of my favourite socialite, Lisa Airan, whose impeccable style gives every Costume Institute Gala a touch of Park Avenue flavour. I’ve just found out she was among the guests but didn’t walk the red carpet (or the gossip site didn’t feature her pic, God knows why). She was a vision in her Alexander McQueen dark blue dress, with a bustier bodice, a sheer long skirt and an all-over embellishment with floral appliques. She also wore long pendant earrings and styled her hair in an uber-chic chignon. I think most of the celebrities who attended the event should stick this picture on their bathroom mirrors, just to have an example of what being effortless chic means.

I’m glad there’s always someone who decides to go for an androgynous look, thus breaking the rule of wearing an evening dress or a ball gown at such an important social event. Janelle Monae stayed true to her personal style, wearing an adorable Chanel outfit. It included black satin trousers, a white shirt with ruffled neck and cuffs (from the fall/winter 2011 collection) and a black satin cummerbund. Her accessories included a diamond ring and brooch, pinned on a black band around the neck, pearl earrings and black pumps. Her make-up was flawless (the best of the evening), not to mention her top hat with net veil, the perfect accessory!

Anna dello Russo followed Janelle’s steps, wearing a suit by Alexander McQueen and an eccentric egg headpiece by Alan Journo, completed by a net veil on her face. I’ve recently grown tired of her style, but this time she positively impressed me. It’s surprising she didn’t opt for a showstopping ball-gown but went for an unconventional look and one must give her credit for never walking on a safe path. Her suit – embroidered trousers, satin black and white tailcoat with slits on the shoulders and white shirt – is part of the spring 2011 collection. She completed the outfit with antique diamond earrings, several diamond-studded bracelets, golden booties and a black clutch.

The Ladies in White/Light Colours/Gold

Sarah Burton, the mind behind Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, worked as first assistant with Alexander McQueen for more than 15 years, so she took part into the creative process behind most of the outfits exhibited. She could have worn a statement piece from a past collection, but she chose a very simple dress instead, showing her desire not to elbow her way under the spotlight. She wore a white chiffon dress, with the high waist emphasized by an embroidered band and bat-wing sleeves; she also wore a gorgeous Fred Leighton diamond and pearl bib necklace and carried a gold knuckle clutch. She styled her blonde hair with a side parting and sported a very fresh make-up (I love her tangerine blush).

Stefano Pilati, the creative director at Yves Saint Laurent, and Florence Welch are a match made in heaven. They walked the red carpet dressed in white and both looked beautiful. The British singer, who performed live during the party, wore a dramatic Yves Saint Laurent white marabou feather coat and white dress with pussy bow and wide sleeves from the fall/winter 2011 collection. She kept the outfit simple and wore no accessories.

Liv Tyler was among the celebrities who attended the event with Riccardo Tisci. The historical face of Givenchy beauty campaigns wowed me, wearing a gorgeous Givenchy Haute Couture creation from the spring 2011 collection, a long tulle dress in a degradé from white to mimosa with hand-stitched, quilted and appliquéd motifs in silk chiffon, georgette and satin, embroidered with ostrich feathers at the hem. The original dress has the sheer bodice, so Liv wore a modified version. She carried a bright yellow clutch and wore diamond jewellery.

Tisci’s guests included the artist Marina Abramovic and his muse Mariacarla Boscono. The Italian model was definitely one of the best dressed of the evening, wearing a Givenchy Haute Couture dress from the fall 2010 collection, Catrina, made of stretch nude tulle embroidered with blush-coloured crystals, hand-cut lace motifs and ostrich feathers. She didn’t wear any accessories and kept her long black hair loose, with a central parting. I don’t know if you agree with me, but these three incredible women showed how Givenchy creations can suit different body types and different ages: they all looked gorgeous.

This is the first time Miranda Kerr is featured in one of my best dressed list and she totally deserves it. She attended the event with Orlando Bloom, wearing a heavenly leather and tulle Marchesa dress from the fall/winter 2011 collection. She paired it with Nicholas Kirkwood lace-up peep-toe shoes and a Marchesa crystal-studded clutch. She also wore a Harry Winston diamond ring and earrings, and styled her hair in a refined updo, thus reinforcing the ballerina vibe of the dress.

I was looking forward to seeing the outfit of Daphne Guinness and she was the only one who didn’t let me down. Personal friend of Lee McQueen, she owns an impressive collection of his designs, part of which comes from the collection of the late Isabella Blow. She walked the red carpet with Hamish Bowles, European Editor at Large for Vogue US, who wore an Alexander McQueen custom-made plaid suit. She looked like an exotic bird, wearing a feathered dress from the spring/summer 2011 collection and Bridle booties from the fall/winter 2011 collection; she added ivory and diamond drop earrings and a gold rectangular wristlet to the outfit. Of course her black and platinum blonde hair was styled in her trademark updo.

Earlier that day, Daphne got dressed for the event in a window of Barneys New York store in Madison Avenue. At the beginning of her art performance, she was wearing an embroidered tulle catsuit from Alexander McQueen fall/winter 2007 collection, In Memory Of Elizabeth How, Salem 1962,  that heavily paid homage to witchery and magic symbology.

Karen Elson amazed me, because she wore the gold sequined dress she had originally worn on the catwalk of McQueen spring/summer 2004 collection, Deliverance. The fashion show, or I’d better say the dance contest, was inspired to They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), a movie by Sydney Pollack which had previously inspired a Steven Meisel editorial, Fashion Marathon, published on Vogue Italia in March 1997 (Franca Sozzani said McQueen took the idea for his fashion show from the editorial by Meisel). I think this dress symbolizes McQueen’s fashion theory, mixing glamour and decay (the sequined fabric has some threadbare spots).

The Outsider

I didn’t expect Ginnifer Goodwin to take this place, but she totally deserved it. Many celebrities wore bright colours on the red carpet, but she did it with an incredible class, wearing a custom Topshop green silk twist-front gown. She paired it with Aperlai platform sandals, a Kotur clutch and an impressive necklace by Van Cleef & Arpels. I’m in love with her short haircut and I love love love her colourful eye make-up, so different from the million neutral make-ups we usually see on red carpets.

What do you think of my list? Do you agree or have a different one? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Source and source.


  1. Oh my God, your comments on the worst dressed were hilarious! IHHhihihihihi

    I was delighted by Liv Tyler’s outfit and I knew you would include it in your best dressed list.

    1. C’mon, some outfits were so hideous! I usually focus on what I like but this time I couldn’t help but speaking my mind.

      Oh, well, I had to include her in my best dressed list: she was lovely and the dress, well, is just gorgeous.

  2. Anche io attendevo con ansia di vedere le foto della serata ma, come te, sono rimasta molto delusa dal fatto che in pochissime hanno indossato le creazioni di McQueen.

    Le mie preferite sono state Maria Carla Boscono,Karen Elson, Florence Welch, Lily Aldridge e Gisele Bundchen.

    Le prime due, Dapnhe Guinness e Christina Ricci sono state quelle che sicuramente hanno rispettato maggiormente il tema della serata.

    Leighton Meester: la trovo troppo “semplice” per una serata di gala come questa e non mi piacciono la lunghezza della gonna e le scarpe, che sul suo fisico minuto non fanno che accorciarla ulteriormente.
    Anna dello Russo: mi ha sorpreso per la sobrietà dell’outfit! 😀
    Miranda Kerr: il fit dell’abito non è giusto sul seno e le fa un brutto effetto, come se se lo stesse per perdere ma un momento all’altro. Avrei eliminato il tulle della gonna

    1. Il vestito che indossava Gisele era bellissimo, ma non l’ho inclusa nella lista perchè lei non mi piace. Lo so, suona come un’enormità ma è vero: ha sempre quell’aria da “sono appena tornata dalla spiaggia” che mal si adatta ad un evento e ad una mise così importante.

      Ho scelto invece Leighton Meester perchè ha osato rispetto alle colleghe, scegliendo un abito particolare, forse non proprio in linea con il tema della serata, che però le stava, a mio parere, molto bene.

  3. I agree with you about Christina Ricci, what an impact she made on the red carpet! She looks like a Ruben Toledo drawing that has come to life – with a little Tim Burton edge thrown in for good measure.

    I was also so happy to see Daphne Guinness in McQueen. I don’t know how she manages to walk in those shoes, but I assume it must enhance her bird-like quality. 🙂

    1. Exactly! She’s the embodiment of a very peculiar vibe, perfectly summarized by your comparison to a Ruben Toledo drawing. Even if she worked with Burton only once, in “Sleepy Hollow”, I think she perfectly epitomizes his cinema, as if she were the female counterpart of Johnny Depp.

      Daphne Guinness is part of a category on her own. Nobody could be compared to her, when it comes to paying homage to the true spirit of Lee McQueen’s style. She knew him well and it’s clear she represents an idea of fashion as art which is, sadly, destined to perish. Just look at all those tacky outfits worn by so-called celebrities on the red carpet. Daphne stood out in the crowd because she is part of a different world and has a different past. I don’t know how to explain it, but this event has made me so sad, in a certain sense: it has celebrated the disappearance of a generation (McQueen and his muse, Isabella Blow, are gone) and of the values they brought with them.

  4. Che delusione questa serata tanto attesa,piena di donne mal vestite e volgari,ridondanti,inadeguate.
    Sono contenta che per una volta su CRicci la pensiamo uguale,favolosa!.
    MBoscono,toglie il fiato.
    Per definire BLively,farò mio un commento letto su TFS:era il MET gala oppure il festival del cinema per adulti di Las Vegas?.

    1. C’è poco da fare: Blake Lively è la dimostrazione lampante di come non basti vestire Chanel per essere eleganti.

  5. Ahh dimenticavo!…anche la “direttora” mi è piaciuta molto,e il mio parere è no,non avrebbe dovuto indossare McQueen.

    1. Ma no, neanche secondo me. Lei al Costume Institute Gala ha sempre indossato Chanel, ed è giusto abbia mantenuto questa tradizione. Bee Schaffer invece mi ha delusa: il suo abito Balenciaga non aveva quel fattore “wow” di altre mise indossate in passato.

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