As with any given Met Gala, the theme was wide open for interpretation on fashion’s biggest night. This year’s nod to the late designer Karl Lagerfeld with the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” brought plenty of options to the table.
Some went for the pearls, an obvious nod to Chanel. Founder Coco Chanel was often draped in them, and in the traditional jewelry Lagerfeld found endless ways to reinvent the strands. (So, too, did attendees like Kim Kardashian and Lizzo.) Others went for vintage, sourcing archival Fendi or Chloé, houses that the designer also worked for during his long career. And others went straight for Choupette, Lagerfeld’s beloved cat.
But for many of those closest to Karl Lagerfeld, paying sartorial homage meant wearing white. And not just any white, but bridal white.
To Lagerfeld, the bride was a constant source of inspiration and symbolism, and a reliable last look on the Chanel couture runways. From nearly the start of his tenure at the French fashion house, when designer put muse Ines de la Fressage in wedding white in 1984, to the spring 2019 haute couture show before his death, Lagerfeld used the bride-in-white as his final look for Chanel. It was customary for Lagerfeld to join his Chanel bride on the runway at the show’s finale, playing a sort of stand-in designer groom for the pageantry of the moment.
In his last decade at the brand, Lagerfeld used his bride to make statements about the world outside of fashion, putting models in masculine white tuxedos (sometimes together) or pairing modern bridal gowns with running shoes (who could forget Cara Delevingne’s “Runaway Bride” moment from the summer 2014 couture collection, which arguably led to the entire fashion sneaker moment that has dominated nearly a decade?). Even a spangly swimsuit and train became a bridal look — in his very last couture collection, no less. It’s a tradition that current creative director Virginie Viard continues to use on the Chanel runways, wrapping its couture shows with the Lagerfeld bridal moment.
Amongst all the pearls, tweed and black-and-white ensembles of the Chanel copies that walked the Met Gala carpet, it was the wedding gowns that felt most authentically Karl, and thus made for the best dressed moments of the night. Long time Lagerfeld friend, muse and event co-chair Penelopé Cruz wore a Chanel chiffon embellished number with a veil that read as a true wedding gown, reprising her role as the exquisite bride that closed the fall 2019 ready-to-wear runway show during Paris Fashion Week, shortly after the designer’s death that year. Last night, she was no doubt paying homage to the Lagerfeld again.
Always one to lean into the Met Gala theme, Rihanna appeared on the red carpet in a Valentino ivory gown and matching voluminous head-covering shrug, all decked out in Chanel’s iconic camellia flower, which Lagerfeld used again and again in the brand’s design codes. And Dua Lipa showed up in an actual Chanel wedding gown, a fall 1992 finale look that was first worn on the runway by Claudia Schiffer, on the arm of Lagerfeld.
Even some of the guys got into the bridal look. Bad Bunny walked the carpet in a white tuxedo by Jacquemus that was accented with a camellia-accented chiffon train (and a backless jacket, no less). One can’t help but wonder what Lagerfeld would have thought of the gender fluidity coursing through men’s fashion right now (especially as his Chanel handbags have become a top men’s accessory for some).
The bridal looks were plentiful, but in the end the best examples expectedly came from those who knew Lagerfeld best. Longtime Lagerfeld and Chanel muse Kristen Stewart walked the carpet in a men’s look from Chanel’s 2016 cruise collection, a look that seemed made for her but outside of her usual Chanel tweeds. And in a custom look by the Karl Lagerfeld brand with heels by Stuart Weitzman, Cara Delevingne (another muse and friend) seemed to channel the designer in the way he would have wanted: with a starched collar, ubiquitous fingerless gloves, and a lot of verve.