Have you ever had that experience where you’re trying your damndest to get a life-changing opportunity, and you’ve put in your best effort, and you’ve been your best self, and you’ve gotten to the final round — and the people in charge pick your fucking Tether?
Whether it’s a school admission, a job, or a purely hypothetical jewelry trunk show at a purely hypothetical retailer, the situation I’m describing is rarer than you might think. I’m not talking about when your rival’s advantage is obvious, like a parent who buys a building or pays a bribe; or a family member who puts in a good word with an employer; or a straight-out family-owned company with lots of money and generations of industry contacts. I’m excluding the toxic and discriminatory environments, where you look around and all the employees are white, and you’re not. Or they’re all men, and you’re not. Or they’re all white men, which is the story of my corporate life. At any rate, there’s not much mystery there. There’s also a more benign but no less disappointing occurrence in which an insider is highly favored/already chosen for a job, but the company is obligated to post the opening due to a law, or a union agreement, or because human resources has to earn their pay somehow.
I’m speaking about a time you get the rejection, and you’re like …
… because, miraculously, all things seem to be equal and the person they picked is you. But it’s not you. Did someone flip a coin? Was it eeny-meenie-miny-moe? Or did two people have a conversation like the one I had with my designing friend Stacy Lomman yesterday, during which I said, “Both your options are good, just pick one randomly and stick with it.”
Well, there was an impressive showing at the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Monday night, as a large number of celebrity attendees lived up to the theme of “Camp: Notes on Fashion.” I easily gave my prestigious Best Dressed/Wear What You Want award to Janelle Monae. (Going back to common travails of people yearning for professional recognition: While Janelle’s ensemble was stellar Monday, her long and impressive fashion résumé did factor into my decision.) But there are so many potential honorable mentions! Every time I thought I had a complete list of the best, I was like, “I can’t possibly leave her out, and if I have her, I need them, and then there’s him, and it’s practically an insult to not mention these …” That’s when I started contemplating Tethers and my conversation with Stacy and said to myself, “Self, just pick some randomly and stick with them!” Like, hello, this particular awards show is imaginary anyway.
So here is my Best of the Rest of the 2019 Met Gala — a list that will leave out a dozen or more equally noteworthy lewks, but we can’t always get what we want.
First Runner-Up With Special Merit for Turning an Entrance Into Performance Art goes to Lady Gaga and her four Brandon Maxwell looks — looks that she changed into on the “red” (actually, it was pink) carpet. Entertainers and fashion editors do love an outfit change, but they usually do them backstage, in a bathroom, or the back seat of an Uber. Here’s the short version of Lady Gaga’s transition from big pink ballgown to black undies.
In real time, this took SIXTEEN MINUTES. That’s extra!
Ever been told you’re overqualified for a job? Lady Gaga feels your pain right now because while Monae’s fashion résumé worked in her favor, Gaga’s worked against her. Gaga has been exemplifying camp since Day One of her stardom, year after year defying fashion police who wondered why she couldn’t dress “normal.” She’s entered the Grammys in an egg and worn a meat dress to the MTV Video Music Awards. She had to be great last night. That’s why she didn’t get my top prize. So unfair, right?
My Second Runners-Up (yes, a tie!) With Special Merit for Living Up to Susan Sontag’s line, “It’s not a lamp, but a ‘lamp’; not a woman, but a ‘woman’” are Tracee Ellis Ross and Katy Perry. Ross wore a black Moschino dress and a big gold picture frame around her face.
That would be wonderful for an event in an art museum regardless, but fashion expert Shelby Ivey Christie pointed out a more specific reference to work by black performance artist Lorraine O’Grady.
So cultural nuance of @TraceeEllisRoss’ look – People used to show up to the African American Day parade in Harlem with frames around their faces! Lorraine O’Grady’s ‘Art Is’ movement.
— Shelby Ivey Christie (@bronze_bombSHEL) May 7, 2019
Ross’s co-winner, Katy Perry, first got really lit at Met Gala in 2010. This time she did it while ensconced in a working chandelier that weighed 40 pounds.
Perry’s frequent collaborator, designer Jeremy Scott of Moschino, was the one who carried out this bright idea. He told Vogue, “There is a built-in corset consisting of 18 steel bones and two hidden battery packs to illuminate the lights. I mean who wants to wear a chandelier that doesn’t light up!”
A lot of attendees were wearing garments so outrageous that they couldn’t get up the stairs on their own, but something about seeing Katy do it while dressed as a dining-room fixture was … *chef’s kiss*.
Katy changed into a hamburger costume for the after-party, but who doesn’t, these days? No extra credit for that. Kidding! She gets extra credit, but hold the pickles, hold the lettuce.
My Third Runners-Up (just give me these ties, okay?) With Special Merit for Looking So Fucking Beautiful in that Crazy-Ass Thing are Cardi B and model Cara Delevingne.
I keep going on about my love for ruffles, floof, volume, and mega-trains — garments that take up physical and psychological space. Cardi B, who has camped it up before with designer Thierry Mugler, came correct in a massive gown by Thom Browne.
Cardi’s train was lined with 30,000 feathers. In her famous essay on camp, Susan Sontag wrote, “Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers,” but I think she’d settle for 30K. The $500,000 of rubies covering Cardi’s nipples were another highlight, no pun intended: I’ve always had a thing for ruby nips.
Proving that I don’t always insist that bigger is better, I’m ending with Delevingne in a naked-but-not, pride-rainbow jumpsuit by Christian Dior. Her headdress was by the surrealistic designer who goes by the name Machine Dazzle.
Dior said the outfit took two people a total of 600 hours to make. Read about that, then go back to my video about how designers without deep pockets can’t go around whipping up free gowns for random, whining celebrities. Not all of us have 600 hours of labor to spare!
I’m so, so tempted to go on and sprinkle praise upon various sartorial political statements; dramatic entrances; performance-inspired hairstyles; fashion icons receiving long-overdue recognition; imitations of Bjork; and people wearing their own faces. However, I did warn you that I was going to leave you asking, “But why?” and “Why not?” So …