The Met Ball's night of a thousand stars in New York
Glitz, glamour and the best gowns on the planet all collided at the Costume Institute's 'Met Ball' Gala. Hilary Alexander was there to soak up the magic.
I was going to have to start my story of New York's Met Ball Gala, by saying that Lauren Hutton went home with my notebook (she borrowed it to write down Stella McCartney's telephone number). But the eternal beauty redeemed herself by having it delivered back to my hotel - like Cinderella - on the stroke of midnight.
Hutton, resplendent in Giorgio Armani, with earrings she made herself, from the feathers of a voodoo ornament brandished by an elder of the Jivaro tribe in the Amazon (specialists in shrunken heads), was just one of several hundred guests who paid homage to Alexander McQueen the late, Great British designer, on Monday night.
They call it 'the East Coast Oscars'; little wonder. In terms of style, effort, money and glamour, this red carpet mother of all fashion-fests, orchestrated by Anna Wintour for the last 13 years, outshines them all.
My felt-tip ran out of ink, as I attempted to list every Hollywood star, celebrity, singer, designer, fashionista, millionairess, and supermodel who made their way - sometimes haltingly, in spike heels and "armadillo" shoes - up those challenging concrete steps to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was an occasion for the well dressed and the merely wealthy.
As the entire event was inspired by Alexander McQueen, it was hardly surprising his label - vintage and current - was the hot favourite. Sarah Jessica Parker (who arrived at a previous Met Ball in McQueen tartan on the arm of the kilted designer); Daphne Guinness; Gisele Bundchen; Karen Elson; Rupert Murdoch's wife Wendi Deng; the famous 'face doctor', Lisa Airan; Salma Hayek; Naomi Campbell; and Raquel Zimmerman were among the 'McQueenies'.
Was the royal wedding an inspiration? There certainly was a lot of headgear on show. Anna Dello Russo's "egg" hat was a bad joke. Demi Moore wore Prabal Gurung with a Philip Treacy feathered 'Showgirls' concoction and Yoko Ono accessorised her vintage black trouser suit with a Stephen Jones white veiled mini-boater.
Madonna apparently had a choice of either a Stephen Jones hat or a Cartier tiara (in the manner of Princess Catherine?), to go with her Stella McCartney gown, but in the event chose neither, while McCartney herself had Cartier diamonds in her hair.
The Beatles' daughter, a co-chair of the night, ran McQueen a very close second in terms of celebrity 'scalps', also dressing, among others, Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Hailee Steinfeld, and Kate Winslet who confessed she was wearing her McCartney black lace and stretch gown over nothing all: "No bra, no knickers. It's fantastic, at 35 and after two kids! I can just slip on a dress and go!"
McCartney had also met Livia Firth's "green carpet" challenge, by creating her first 'fully eco' gown from recycled sequins, and 'avoca' hemp-silk over organic silk trousers.
Others flying the flag for Britfash included Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton in white Grecian Goddess silk; Alexa Chung in Christopher Kane; Lily Donaldson in Erdem; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in Burberry; Mick Jagger in Timothy Everest fastened with a diamond Waziristan buckle; and Ginnifer Goodwin in custom made Topshop Unique, accessorised with Van Cleef & Arpels jewels.
Ashley Olsen wore vintage Christian Dior from 1981, while her twin, Mary-Kate was in 1970's vintage Givenchy. Natalia Vodianova arrived in a black tulle and ostrich feather couture gown from Valentino's own (last) collection, while Dakota Fanning and sister Elle, were both in Valentino current.
Shalom Harlow, immortalised in the exhibition in a film clip of her being paint-sprayed by robots in McQueen's spring/summer 1999 show, swapped her allegiance to Marchesa.
Beyonce wore Emilio Pucci, J.Lo and Mary J Blige were in Gucci, and Karl Lagerfeld played 'spiderman' in a black and white floral Tom Ford tux and a black tie fastened with a diamond tarantula. Waiters, ushers and bag-pipers wore McQueen tartan.
Dinner was served in the 15 BC Temple of Dendur, decorated with heather and boxwood hedging, on tables balanced on tree-stumps, to echo the late designer's fixation with the forces of raw nature.
Florence Welch, accompanied by the Machine, a harpist, and a choir, appeared like the goddess Isis (to whom the ancient Egyptians dedicated the temple), with a full moon projected behind her. Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell bopped like it was 1974, as Florence belted out Bowie's "Rebel Rebel", dancing up and down the stage like a whirling dervish.
As she hit the last wailing note, she raised the "wings" of her Alexander McQueen gold poppy-print chiffon gown and "floated" away inside the temple - the perfect finale.