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The Met Gala 2023 Exhibits Various Lines of Beauty Through Lagerfeld’s Legacy

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Fashion’s biggest night came to a glamorous conclusion as the Met Gala returned on May 1 in celebration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s annual fashion exhibit. As a fundraising event held annually on the first Monday of May, the Met Gala is the most prestigious event in the fashion world, consisting of a star-studded guest list that create some of the most memorable red carpet looks of all time. 

This year, the event was held in remembrance of Karl Lagerfeld, the late German fashion designer who revolutionized the fashion industry with his dedication and passion. The Costume Institute’s 2023 exhibit, titled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” celebrates Lagerfeld’s work by spotlighting 150 looks from Lagerfeld’s career, accompanied by his sketches, offering a look into his complex creative process. 

Lagerfeld was best known for his work as the creative director of Chanel from 1983 to 2019. But he was also the creative director of both Fendi from 1965 to 2019, as well as his eponymous brand from 1984 to 2019. Easily recognizable by his signature white hair, black sunglasses, fingerless gloves and high, detachable collars, Lagerfeld used his innovation and creativity to shape not only the modern fashion wardrobe but the fashion industry as we know it. 

Guests of the Met Gala were instructed to dress “in remembrance of Karl”. The most popular interpretation choice was to pay homage to his work at Chanel. As one of the co-chairs alongside Penélope Cruz, Michaela Coel, Roger Federer and Anna Wintour, Dua Lipa showcased excellent style in a 1992 Chanel couture wedding dress accompanied by a stunning Tiffany & Co. necklace; the tweed gown’s basque waist, black trim and fringe hem all make for a flattering look, while the 100-carat Legendary Diamond steals the spotlight. Anne Hathaway’s dress, on the other hand, was Versace instead of Chanel. Yet, the tweed, pearls, camellias met safety pins and slits for a perfect marriage between the two brands. Cardi B exhibited a vintage, elegant style unlike any other; her dress from Chenpeng Studio pays homage to Lagerfeld in the form of a white shirt collar, quilted overlay and large sculptural flowers. 

One of the most memorable looks comes from Nicole Kidman, who brought forth a wave of nostalgia in the form of a pink Chanel couture gown  — the same one Lagerfeld designed for her in 2004 when she starred in a Chanel No. 5 commercial by director Baz Luhrmann. Made with pink silk tulle, a four-meter train, 250 pink ostrich feathers and over 3,000 silver crystals and sequins, the dress is almost twenty years old but still just as beautiful. 

Rumored to be banned from the Met Gala, the Kardashians proved everyone wrong, as Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Kendall Jenner showed up to the red carpet as usual. However, their outfits seemed to be underwhelming, a stark contrast to previous years. Kim Kardashian’s Schiaparelli dress was adorned with pearls from top to bottom, a reference to Lagerfeld’s common use of such materials. However, the outfit looked more over-embellished, if anything. Kylie Jenner’s red Haider Ackermann x Jean Paul Gauthier dress has no faults on its own but is completely unrelated to the event’s theme. Kendall Jenner’s look by Marc Jacobs references Lagerfeld’s signature shirt collar, but her incredibly high platform boots put her at a towering, awkward height — especially next to her sisters. 

Evidently, some stars viewed the theme a little differently than everyone else. Instead of sporting brands such as Chanel or paying homage to Lagerfeld’s personal style, some decided to become the fashion industry’s most famous cat instead: Choupette, Lagerfeld’s Birman cat and one of the most important figures in his life. 

Lil Nas X decorated himself with sparkling silver body paint, Swarovski crystals, a jeweled mask and a Dior thong, with the whiskers and claws supposedly being a reference to Choupette. It created quite a buzz online, but the look is hard for the common audience to appreciate. Doja Cat’s dress by Oscar de la Renta is stunning, but what really puts her look together was the makeup that allows her features to look more cat-like. 

Without a doubt, the best Choupette look goes to Jared Leto, who showed up in an adorable, hyper-real cat costume; the life-like blue eyes truly resembled the real Choupette and the synthetic fur was painted to match the cat’s color variations in real life. Leto and his team kept his identity top secret, which led to hilarious moments on the red carpet, the most notable one being Lizzo’s look of utter bewilderment as she was being hugged by a gigantic cat whose identity was a mystery. Later on in the night, Leto revealed his identity by taking off the cat head, shocking everyone on the red carpet.

A handful of Asian stars were also spotted at the event, but it seemed as though they were given either minimal screen time or attention. As one of the most popular Chanel ambassadors currently, BLACKPINK’s Jennie Kim wore a white mini-dress embellished with a black ribbon and a white camellia at the waist, a reinterpretation of look 164 from Lagerfeld’s 1990 fall ready-to-wear collection for Chanel. The dress is simple and sweet, but the look seemed a little lackluster for a grand event such as the Met Gala. 

Aside from Jennie and Michelle Yeoh, who gained some screen time for her flowy black-and-white Karl Lagerfeld gown, many Asian stars were nowhere to be found. Even worse, Vogue’s Instagram mistakenly identified Cai Xukun as Jackson Wang in their post, and took their team 10 minutes to fix the mistake. The same mistake was made a second time when his picture was paired with the name Leon Lai Yi. It seems apparent that, at the end of the day, Asian stars were not given equal importance just because they were invited, even during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. 

Last but not least, Rihanna and A$AP Rocky arrived fashionably late to the event. The rapper took inspiration from Lagerfeld’s Scottish look from a 2004 Chanel show in Tokyo, working with Gucci to complete the outfit with a black blazer styled with a kilt and jeans. Rihanna’s look consisted of a white Valentino couture silk faille dress, a cape embellished with 30 giant camellias and white sunglasses with long false eyelashes. 

The Met Gala is more than just a costume party for celebrities — it’s a global fashion event that allows designers, models and celebrities to come together and appreciate fashion for what it is. This year, the celebration was held in remembrance of Lagerfeld, whose undeniable influence on the fashion world will continue to change the industry, and guests made sure to honor his legacy through their looks on the red carpet. Although fashion’s biggest night has concluded for 2023, the various lines of beauty presented this May shall not be soon forgotten. 

Grace Tu is a Social Media Manager for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at tug2@uci.edu.