The theme of this year’s Met Costume Institute Gala—i.e., the Oscars of the East—was “the Model as Muse,” and the weedlike mannequins floating up the red carpet in weapons-grade shoes and teensy get-ups appeared only moderately more human than the “superheroes” that inspired last year’s ball.
Molly Sims called her elaborate gold Dolce & Gabbana minidress “fashion-forward, taking a chance, shorter than short, short, short.” She was also wearing a necklace by jeweler-of-the-moment Tom Binns. “I kinda push fashion tonight!”
“We’ve gotten our due for a long time,” she demurred when asked whether it was nice to be the center of attention for once. “But it’s nice.”
Short was the order of the evening: One of the last standing supermodels, Kate Moss, had arrived 35 minutes in advance of the start time on the arm of honorary gala chair Marc Jacobs, clad in a miniscule gold toga and matching turban.
Mr. Jacobs was uncharacteristically buttoned-up in tuxedo and slicked-back hair; he placed his hand stiffly on Ms. Moss’ back and the duo posed for a few photos before exchanging whispers and rushing past crushed television crews to the entrance atop the stairs. (Mr. Jacobs’ fiancé, advertising executive Lorenzo Martone, would later arrive on the arm of Posh Spice.)
Vogue editor at large André Leon Talley, resplendent in an Isabel Toledo cape, was more voluble: “I gave a lot of advice to a lot of people, but they shall remain nameless because they don’t want me to say who I’m giving advice to,” he was telling a reporter nearby. (Last year, he’d dressed Venus Williams).
Russell Simmons looked on admiringly. “I once sat with André Leon Talley,” he said. “He’s the host of the event”—actually, it’s his boss, Anna Wintour—“he’s the inspiration for the whole thing, he’s got such good taste and everyone looks to him; he’s like fashion royalty, isn’t he?”
Mr. Talley was now telling a photographer who asked him to back up for a photo to “just take Obama!”, slapping an Obama button he’d pinned to his massive gold heart chain Roger Vivier necklace. “I had a good time,” he told The Observer of last year’s gala. “We went to the after-party, Venus and I, and Kimora [Lee Simmons] and Karl [Lagerfeld]; we had a fabulous time, it was at some restaurant, Phillipe …”
He declined to comment on how he planned to potentially get Mr. Obama to the ball in the future: “Ask Anna Wintour! I don’t answer those kind of questions, I have a mortgage to pay!”
Co-host Justin Timberlake appeared on the carpet in nerdy glasses with a Versace-clad Jessica Biel on his arm, and the photographers’ chorus of shouts reached a high pitch (rivaled only by the one greeting Posh Spice soon after, and, much later, Madonna).
Then came the moguls: Harvey, Donald, Rupert.
“How are you, my little beauty, are you still married?” Mr. Trump was asking a petite blond Fox News reporter as wife Melania posed for pictures down the carpet.
“I’ve been here many times, yes,” he told The Observer. “You just meet a lot of great people.” Who did he want to meet tonight? “I hadn’t thought about it, ask me after dinner!” Would that we were invited to dinner, sir!
The carpet was filling up with ethereal, slow-moving Russian and Eastern European mannequins, most wearing smoky eyeliner and messy hair and clutching the nerdy-looking young fashion designers who’d designed their outfits.
“She was lovely enough and gracious enough to ask me to be her date,” said designer Richard Chai of the Amazonian Karolina Kurkova, standing to his right in a, yes, short blue dress he’d designed. “I’ve known Karolina since she first came to New York, when she was 16, and I was the director at Marc Jacobs, so it’s an ironic sort of full-circle moment for us, that Marc’s hosting it. She came in for a casting and we took her for the show, and she was the same exact person then as she is now.”
In the car, bracing themselves for flashbulb impact before braving the carpet, they’d discussed “absolutely nothing about fashion,” he said. “Just what have we been up to, what are we doing, where are we going afterwards” (to Mr. Jacobs’ party at Monkey Bar and then to knitwear heiress Margherita Missoni’s bash at 1Oak).
Soft-spoken Michelle Obama clothier Jason Wu, meanwhile, making his Met debut after exploding from obscurity into household-name-dom in the past year, described how he went about getting a date with Jessica Alba. “We met each other last year, we were at a photo shoot. It was really great,” he said. “So when it came to the Met, I was like, ‘You know what? I’m going to ask Jessica.’ We’d seen each other a couple more times, and when it came to this event, I thought, ‘Well, Jessica would be the perfect muse.’ She’s really down to earth. These things can be daunting at times.”
Hey! There was Cheryl Tiegs, wearing a blue sequined, actually floor-grazing vintage Norman Norrell. “When I was starting out, nobody really knew who models were or what they were doing or whatever; they certainly didn’t know my name,” she said. “Today, I think girls are much more recognizable, and that puts more pressure on them. They get more money, it’s a bigger production. But there is no right or wrong, good or bad. When I started out, it was simpler.”
Nonetheless: “It was a thrill,” Ms. Tiegs sighed. “I love my Vogue covers. They’re some of my favorites.”