Category Is. May 2018.

Dear Rowley,

Last night New York hosted fashion’s Oscars: the annual Metropolitan Museum Gala ball chaired by Condé Nast creative director Anna Wintour in aid of the Met’s Costume Institute. Mortals would have to sell a kidney for the ticket price for a ball whose guests Ms Wintour vets like Steve Rubell at the pearly gates of Studio 54.

There is only one problem here. Us Vogue editor Ms Wintor is so of the now, of the new and of the moment that if you didn’t have a degree in media studies and endless hours dedicated to music and movies you’d be hard-pressed to guess who half of the guests were. Ruby Rose? Zendaya? Irina Shayk? Doutzen Kroes anyone? No, me neither. It is terribly hard to invest much interest in the label a lady is wearing if you’ve never heard of her.

This year’s exhibition – Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination - was an open goal for the creme de la creme of pop, politics, fashion and music to make complete arses of themselves in costumes that would make a nun kick a hole in a stained glass window and the ladies – and some gentlemen mentioning no names Jared Leto – did not disappoint.

I think Ms Wintour has got to face it that she’s become a victim of her own success here. The Met Gala Ball has nothing to do with fashion any more. It is similar to a Drag Pageant Ball and, if judged with the same severity,  is infinitely less creative. I doubt the event gets half the audience rating of an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But in the spirit of RuPaul’s runway critiques here goes.

Adamant that nobody would think she didn’t get the dress code memo, Katy Perry went for the full Angel Gabriel with a wingspan reminiscent of Barbarella. But that Versace gold chain mail mini with the over-long sleeves wasn’t nearly cinched at the waist enough to give a killer silhouette. The thigh-length boots were far from celestial: more Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman than Angel of America.

Sarah Jessica Parker proves that you can be too rich and too thin allowing her Dolce & Gabbana Festival of the All Saints dress to swamp her. It simply isn’t good fashion. This is a 1970s London Palladium pantomime costume for a demon queen. The head piece is horribly underwhelming what with the sprig of flowers to one side and the exposed Alice band on the other. If it actually had been the actual size of the shrine at Santiago di Compostela we could have been cooking with gas. I’m going to boot it.

If Sarah Jessica Parker had walked RuPaul’s runway when the category is the Catholic Imagination in that get-up she’d have been eviscerated and I know Michelle Visage would have said, ‘darling, the line looks schlumpy’. And as for Rihanna! She’s basically the anti-christ of Pop. The lady showed-up in a Maison Margiela embroidered cardinal’s outfit complete with mitre and cope probably making Pope Francis think twice about pieces from the Vatican Museum loaned to the exhibition.

Houston, we have a problem here too. The mini-skirted boustier totally loses impact with the ankle-length overskirt and the opera cloak. The Mitre jammed down over the lady’s forehead is an unfortunate shape making Rihanna look like she’s wearing a dunce’s cap on her head. The beading may be elaborate but it doesn’t read for the cameras. I am sorry my dear but you are up for elimination.

You know an event is a busted flush when Kim Kardashian in all-over gold chainmail sequin Versace is the best-dressed woman at the event. Frances McDormant summed-up the bathos. She looked intentionally as messy as a bag of knitting when she won the Best Actress Oscar earlier in the year. For the Met Gala, Ms McDormand pitched-up in a great lady gown by Valentino wearing a ludicrous hat that obscured her make-up free face and vamped for the cameras in a cod-glamorous fashion. The outfit was a send-up which says it all.

As an ego trip for Anna Wintour, the Met Gala Ball was a triumph. She even got the original lapsed Catholic who has been excommunicated at least twice – Madonna – as the after dinner turn. But I found the white Chanel Pope’s outfit worn by the Divine Ms Wintour rather like hubris in Haute Couture. We know she’s the most powerful woman in fashion but to come as the Pope to her own party was labouring the point somewhat, no?

There was an awful lot of supermodel beauties wearing halos on the night congratulating themselves presumably for their God-given genes and the hereditary celebrities were out in force. Stella McCartney is never without a pair at the Met Gala: this year settling for Paris Jackson and Miley Cyrus in a Sapphic Three Graces pose. But it is all a tad self-indulgent and self-congratulatory.

They’ve all won the prize of a golden ticket bestowed by Ms Wintour. They have won the celebrity snakes and ladders board of 2018. Interesting how few are repeat invitees. The golden oldies this year were Brooke Shields and Linda Carter and thank god for their solid gold glamour which put the parvenues to shame. Eleanor Lambert, who founded the event in 1948, would turn in her grave. Mrs Lambert practically invented fashion PR and was the woman behind the Vanity Fair best-dressed list. I lunched with Mrs Lambert before the old king died at Harry’s Bar when researching a project about Halston and she was indeed legendary.

When fashion’s Oscars cease to be about fashion and becomes a drag pageant it is time to reassess. The event produces a flurry of Best and Worst dressed lists for a day and then disappears into the ether. All that effort for relatively little attention might need a rethink. Until next time…