Before we get to the main event (the gowns!), let us draw your attention to the exhibition for which the gala was thrown. This summer's show is entitled the Model As Muse: Embodying Fashion, which explores the relationship between designers and models in fashion photography and popular culture from 1947-1997. As much as designers, photographers, and stylists are the driving creative forces behind an image, the model is the vehicle; they themselves become icons. What would Richard Avedon's unforgettable "Dovima with Elephants" image be without, well, Dovima? Would Rudi Gernreich's "topless" swimsuit be quite so memorable without the bare-chested and statuesque form of Peggy Moffitt? Would Steven Meisel's photographs be so powerful without the glamazon figures of Christy, Naomi, and Linda? We think not!
Considering the exhibit's theme, naturally the most notable names in model-dom made appearances, much to our delight. Even better: most followed co-host Marc Jacobs' pleas to wear short frocks for a "clubby" look (the man is clearly still in the throes of his '80s Danceteria moment). Anja Rubik and Daria Werbowy looked cutting-edge in Balmain dresses from the Fall 09 collection. Rubik opted for a metallic strapless number, while Werbowy picked a darker hued piece with a plunging neckline. Lara Stone showed up arm-in-arm with fashion darling Alexander Wang, wearing the designer's glimmering gold asymmetrical dress and ankle booties. Model/stylist Vanessa Traina also decided on short boots to go with her belted navy Phi dress. The lovely Liya Kebede picked an abbreviated (and backless) Derek Lam floral frock from the designer's upcoming Resort 09 collection which she paired with horn-heeled mauve suede shoes from the upcoming Fall 09 season as well. Sasha Pivovarova made a dramatic statement in a body-con Giambattista Valli mini, which she styled with a beautiful cascading peacock cape from the designer's Fall 09 collection. In keeping with their modern and unfussy dresses, these ladies went for simple hair and makeup, as well as minimal and spare jewelry selections, which helped them look young, fresh, and completely current.
Of course, not everyone adhered to the high-hemline mandate. The always-cool Lily Donaldson wore a Narciso Rodriguez gown, in the style of what we at Who What Wear headquarters affectionately refer to as the reverse-mullet dress (party in the front, formal in the back!). This was the dark-horse silhouette of the evening, additionally appearing on Lou Doillon (in Nina Ricci), Jessica Biel (in William Rast), and Bee Shaffer (also in Nina Ricci). That said, there were loads of proper gowns in attendance as well. Most notably, Natalia Vodianova showed up in a simply stunning vintage Fortuny column gown in a geranium pink hue. Unlike some of her tough-chic contemporaries, Vodianova gilded the lily with Fred Leighton and H.Stern jewelry.
The other promising trend of the night was a no-skirt approach to evening wear, à la Erin Wasson. Along with fellow pant-picking guests such as Stella McCartney (in her own lacy jumpsuit design), Leighton Meester (who made her mark in Louis Vuitton), and Rihanna (who mastered the masculine-feminine mix in a Dolce & Gabanna satin suit with very voluminous shoulder poufs), Wasson skipped the traditional gala gear entirely and instead wore Phi leather pants embellished with punky zippers and a Phi tuxedo jacket.
All in all, the annual event was an exercise in inspiration, not just because it provided us with some seriously stylish eye candy to sate our appetite until 2010's soirée, but also because it raised enough money to keep the Costume Institute well-funded for another year! Bravo!-KM