2014 Met Gala Red Carpet

Posted on May 7, 2014

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(Livia Firth / Instagram)

(Livia Firth / Instagram)

The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art holds a black-tie gala each May to celebrate the opening of their annual exhibit.  The Met Gala aka Met Ball is the epitome of exclusivity with a guest list overseen by Vogue‘s all-powerful editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and a ticket price of $25,000.  Known as the East Coast equivalent of Oscars night, the affair adds a twist to the usual red-carpet procession by encouraging guests to dress according to a different theme each year.

This year’s theme was White Tie and Decorations, a dress code so obscure it was reported in the general press in publications such as the New York Times and Time magazine.  Ostensibly intended to complement the elegant designs of the exhibition’s featured designer Charles James, the motif presented a couple of obvious challenges.  First off, few Americans in this day and age have any idea what the dress code entails.  (Witness the widespread event coverage by fashion and celebrity writers who repeatedly identified tailcoats as a “tuxedo”.)  Secondly, few American retailers offer the required attire.  This meant that guests who wished to respect the code would essentially be forced to purchase a custom tailored tailcoat at significant cost.   

Less obvious to the lay person (i.e. non Black Tie Guide fans) is the inherent contradiction in using a formal dress code as suggested party attire.  The former is a strictly mandated set of rules  while the latter is simply a starting point for individual interpretation.  Since the hosts obviously had no intention of turning away guests unadorned in white tie, the following review evaluates the men’s outfits not as a matter of etiquette but in the context of being appropriate for the glamourous and sophisticated atmosphere that the hosts were endeavouring to create.  

Exceptional

Full dress is such a stunning ensemble on its own that a man needs only execute it successfully in order to achieve sartorial supremacy.    However, such execution does not come easily as it requires precise tailoring.  Not only must the coat remain snug against the torso without being buttoned closed but the waistcoat must not ride so low so as to jut out below the coat’s front nor sit so high as to expose the trouser waist.  This latter requirement alone eliminated all but a handful of men from achieving perfection.

Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrman and his costume designer wife who ruined the formal wear in said film. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrman and his costume designer wife who ruined the formal wear in said film. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Actor and gala co-chair Bradley Cooper in Tom Ford. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Actor and gala co-chair Bradley Cooper in Tom Ford. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Colin Firth in Tom Ford.  (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Colin Firth in Tom Ford. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Tom Ford in Tom Ford.  Noticing a pattern yet? (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Tom Ford in Tom Ford. The gloves are a nice touch yet also practical as they can be tucked away in a pocket unlike the walking canes sported by some idiots.  (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Douglas Booth in Burberry.  (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Douglas Booth in Burberry. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Commendable

These are gentlemen whose full-dress kit was perfect in theory but failed in the execution.  Also included here are men wise enough to understand that if white tie is not an option then classic black tie is the next best thing when it comes to conveying formality, elegance and sophistication.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s was technically the correct length but not constructed well enough to remain properly positioned throughout the evening.

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s coat front was technically the correct length but the garment was not fitted enough to remain properly positioned throughout the evening.

Photographer Mario Testino’s tailcoat also tended to creep upwards.  Incidentally, Testiono appeared to be the only guest wearing actual decorations (the Order of the British Empire and his native Peru’s Grand Cross Order of Merit).

Photographer Mario Testino’s tailcoat also tended to creep upwards. Incidentally, Testiono appeared to be the only guest wearing actual decorations, in this case the Order of the British Empire and his native Peru’s Grand Cross Order of Merit.

English actor Hugh Dancy in his 3-piece Prada was about the only man with enough understanding of formal wear to know that classic black tie was the most acceptable substitute. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

English actor Hugh Dancy in his 3-piece Prada was about the only man who understood that classic black tie was the only real alternative. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Forgettable

Among the great majority of men who chose not to wear full dress, there were some very sad attempts at fashion innovation. On one hand there was the multitude who figured that simply slapping a white bow tie on a regular tuxedo was a stroke of genius (Michael Kors, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Scott Campbell, Matt Bomer, Jason Wu, Oliver Theyskens, Sean Penn, Marc Jacobs, Paul Rudd, Darren Gallo, recording artist Miguel), and on the other hand were the masses that figured a casual white dinner jacket was an acceptable substitute for a regal tailcoat (David Beckham, Bryan Cranston, Hugh Jackman, Jay Z, Frank Ocean, Jake Gyllenhall, Joshua Jackson, Edward Burns, Riccardo Tisci, Michael Sheen, Thakoon Panichgul).

Designer Kenneth Cole representing the white bow tie black tuxedo crowd. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Designer Kenneth Cole representing the white bow tie & black tuxedo crowd. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

David Beckham characterizes the white dinner jacket multitude. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

David Beckham characterizes the cocktail waiter contingent. The jacket is totally inappropriate outside of subtropical climates. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Regrettable

These men were noble enough to attempt proper white tie but didn’t quite succeed, mostly due to inappropriate waistcoat length and/or coat sleeve length (there are simply too many names  to mention).  Many of them also marred the intended refinement of full-dress by decking themselves out in watch chains and medallions, most likely a result  of misinterpreting the dress code’s call for “decorations”.

TV personality Andy Cohen. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

TV personality Andy Cohen. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Ralph Lauren scion David Lauren. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Ralph Lauren scion David Lauren. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

English actor Eddie Redmayne (whom one would expect to know better based on his usually impeccable evening dress). (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

English actor Eddie Redmayne (whom one would expect to know better based on his usually impeccable evening dress). (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Singer John Legend in Ralph Lauren.  (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Singer John Legend in Ralph Lauren. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Johnny Depp’s spats led one fashion critic likened him to the Penguin villain from Batman.  (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Johnny Depp’s spats led one fashion critic likened him to the Penguin villain from Batman. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty)

Deplorable

These are the Hall of Shame candidates: the most blatant bastardizations and sophomoric interpretations of formal convention whether due to naïve ignorance or smug self-importance.  The results denigrate both the wearer and the occasion.

NBA player Carmelo Anthony (in Rag and Bone) is apparently sidelining as a circus ringleader.  (AFP)

NBA player Carmelo Anthony (in Rag and Bone) is apparently sidelining as a circus ringleader. (AFP)

Neil Patrick Harris and partner David Burtka in Tom Browne may have intended to be ironic but they only succeeded in being insulting to the other guests. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

Neil Patrick Harris and partner David Burtka in Thom Browne may have intended to be ironic but they only succeeded in being insulting. (Larry Busacca / Getty)

What the hell happened to Jake Gyllenhaal?  (AP)

What the hell happened to Jake Gyllenhaal? (AP)

Designer Pier Paolo Piccioli demonstrates how nothing says formal elegance like bare shins. (Vogue)

Designer Pier Paolo Piccioli demonstrates how bare shins are an essential part of formal elegance. (Vogue)

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For more failed attempts at formal elegance – and judging said elegance – see GQ‘s 10 Best-Dressed Men at the Met Gala and Complex magazine’s Best Dressed Dudes at the Met Gala.

Posted in: Red Carpet, White Tie