The 2016 Met Gala Red Carpet: The Good, The Bad, The Robotic

All the must-see looks from 2016's Manus x Machina-themed affair

Excuse me, but what happened on last night’s Met Gala red carpet? This year’s theme was “Manus x Machina,” which is Latin for “Hand vs. Machine,” so I expected (read: fantasized) that everyone would be in Hussein Chalayan, something from Pratt’s recent “Coded Couture” exhibition, 3D-printed Iris Van Herpen, or archive Spring 2007 Balenciaga—the metallic collection that, according the brand’s then-creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, was largely inspired by androids.

Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Instead, the bulk of the evening’s red carpet darlings opted for revealing silver gowns or frocks fit for those Fembots in Austin Powers. Come on, now. We can be more creative (and progressive) than that, can’t we?

In all fairness, there was a lot to think about when dressing for this year’s Met Gala. Or at least, we journalists would like to (over) think that there was a lot to think about. Handcraft is slowly disappearing. Wearable tech is swooping in (Levi’s is even working on a pair of smart jeans, whatever that means). 3D printing is all the rage, and thanks to the speed of the Internet, fashion is moving at a faster pace than ever before (insert discussion of see-now, buy-now, designer burnout, consumer fatigue, social media-broadcast runway shows, etc. here). Heck, Andrew Bolton, the Met’s curator in charge, who headed up the entire “Manus x Machina” exhibition, told us that he hopes the show “will make people look at the process, to appreciate the artistry behind fashion and to slow down the pace of everything because it’s too fast…it’s worrying in terms of its repercussions.”

But enough about fashion history and the depressing state of our industry—we have a gala to critique! The mainstream media often refers to the Met Gala as the “Oscars of fashion,” and considering the uninventive choices we saw on last night’s red carpet, I’d say that’s an apt comparison. The obvious move was to wear something metallic. This was done best by Anna Ewers (in Boss), Brie Larson (in Proenza Schouler), and of course, Gala host Taylor Swift. The newly rebellious (ish) pop star strutted her stuff in a short, flirty look by Ghesquière for  Louis Vuitton. The #BalmainArmy (Kim Kardashian, Cindy Crawford, Jourdan Dunn, Alessandra Ambrosio et al.) turned out in wares constructed from various metallic confections, too. If his in laws’ custom Balmain duds at the Yeezy concert didn’t tip you off, Kanye West is now part of Olivier Rousteing’s crew as well, and he donned a pair of ripped jeans with his Balmain jacket. (Always a contrarian, that one, sartorial and otherwise.) But that’s not all! West went the extra mile by popping in pair of blue contact lenses in order to look like some kind of alien robot. Cute.

There were some genuinely clever takes on the machina, or rather, futuristic, theme, like Jenna Lyons’, Lena Dunham’s, and Jenni Konner’s interpretation of cloning (the trio arrived in matching J.Crew tuxes and thick-rimmed glasses), and Karolina Kurkova’s cognitive Marchesa number, which was made in partnership with IBM. Others, like Kendall Jenner and Lady Gaga, both in Atelier Versace, went with wares that looked like computer chips or motherboards. The former stepped out in a skin-baring cutout gown, while the latter opted for a jacket and bodysuit sans pants. Zac Posen designed a light-up Cinderella gown for Claire Danes, and Emma Watson’s train-cum-trousers ensemble by Calvin Klein was fashioned from recycled plastic bottles. Now that’s an interesting (and aesthetically appealing) concept for fashion’s future.

Still, the most striking numbers leaned more towards the manus than the machina. For instance, Bella Hadid was stunning in a black Givenchy couture gown from the house’s Spring 2016 New York show. Karlie Kloss, too, was an elegant vision in white. The model attended three fittings with LVMH Prize finalist Brandon Maxwell, who hand cut the dress on her body. “I didn’t really think about the theme,” Maxwell told Fashion Unfiltered. “I just looked at Karlie, who is my absolute dream model—woman—and wanted to see her how I see her in my mind, which is classic, elegant, and healthy,” he explained, adding that the gown was “very handmade and hand draped, and I felt that was ‘manus.’” It was indeed.

Katy Perry, meanwhile, seemed a cyborg queen in black and gold Prada, and Nyong’o channeled an otherworldly superbeing in her diaphanous lime Calvin Klein gown, though her Leaning Tower of Pisa-esque hair is destined to spawn a million Internet memes. But I say, Good for her. Per usual, she was one of the only attendees who looked to be having a genuinely good time, and if that coif helped lift her mood, more power to her.

Beyoncé made her entrance in a peachy, flower-embellished, rubber Givenchy gown. It looked hot—literally, but she was a force in the second-skin latex that hugged her every curve. (Becky be damned!) And Madonna. Oh, Madonna. The icon posed in a bondage look, also by Givenchy, that, like Lady Gaga (the irony!) lacked pants. It didn’t have much to do with anything, unless it was, perhaps, a “sexy Halloween” version of some costume from the Matrix. But bitch, she’s Madonna, and she’s earned the right to wear whatever the hell she wants. 

In short, the Met Gala’s red carpet was as it always is—safe, a little too revealing (not that there’s anything wrong with revealing—if you’ve got it, and you love it, flaunt it—but women appeared to be dressing for men, rather than for themselves), and sprinkled with a few refreshing surprises. As for what it says about our industry? Celebrity and commerciality are being pushed more aggressively than ever. God forbid someone wear something really daring—they might end up on E!’s worst dressed list! (The network broadcast the red carpet for the first time this year.) But let’s be serious—the vast majority of these young women aren’t really selecting their dresses at all. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, we’re subjected to pre-packaged, pre-approved ensembles that don’t necessarily reflect the wearer’s personality. It’s not all bad, though—the garments in the Met’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology” exhibition were the real stars, and you can go enjoy them until August 14.

Click through our slideshow above to see the best looks from the red carpet.

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