Met Costume Institute Gala 2011 Celebrates ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’

At the base of the red carpeted steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art stood six men in full Scottish garb—kilts, tall socks, even the sporran, or pouch worn around the waist—waiting to greet the guests at the Museum’s annual Costume Institute Gala. For the May 2 event, which celebrated the opening of “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” no detail was left unfinished.

“The last time I brought a date I was with Lee,” Sarah Jessica Parker remembered of her past Met Gala experiences. “I was thrilled and shocked that he said yes. We’re both actually very shy people, despite my profession—it was a very quiet car ride!”

The actress and the late designer were soon fast friends, though, and for this year's event Parker wore a dress from his Fall 2005 collection as a tribute. “I wasn’t allowed to sew it, because it’s an archive piece,” she explained, “so I was very fortunate that it fit me!”

“He was kind of shy—but he had a naughty side to him,” Madonna (wearing a design by Stella McCartney that she said made her feel “a little bit fat”) remembered of her friend McQueen. “If you were with him with a small group of people, he could be very mischievous. We had a French fry fight one time!”

A-lister after A-lister made their way up the stairs (some with more difficulty than others; “It’s not easy!” laughed Beyonce as she inched up in her skintight Pucci) for a Scottish-themed dinner and three-song performance by Florence and the Machine—Welch, the Florence in question, arrived on the arm of Yves Saint Laurent designer Stefano Pilati, while other designer-star duos included Michael Kors and Dianna Agron, Thakoon Panichgul and Mia Wasikowska, Giambattista Valli and Doutzen Kroes, Valentino Garavani and Natalia Vodianova, and Rachel Roy and her design partner/Knicks superstar Amar’e Stoudemire.

“I’ve been to fashion week, I’ve been in Vogue, but this is by far more star-studded, more exciting,” said Stoudemire, who’s busy working on a collection with Roy. But how does it compare to the NBA? “It’s similar—like if the Knicks have a huge game!”

One attendee who attracted plenty of attention at the gala was Sarah Burton, McQueen’s design protégé and the house’s current creative director—you may have heard of a certain wedding dress she recently designed ...

“I think McQueen was a design genius, and this is a tribute to him, but I also wanted to give a tribute to Sarah [Burton] because she’s doing really well—she’s amazing,” said Anna Dello Russo, who, though she admits to having “quite a lot!” of McQueen’s work in her collections, was sporting a creation designed by Burton.

Never one to play it safe, ADR also wore a hat topped with a giant egg. “It was Easter a couple of days before,” she said. “I thought it was a great idea to put an egg on my head. Also an egg can mean an idea—inside there’s an idea. It’s just a hilarious thing; it’s just to have fun.” (Her next topper idea? “Maybe fromage!”)

Other sartorial standouts included Jennifer Lopez in hot pink Gucci, Ashley Olsen’s full-sleeved Dior Couture, Rihanna’s black lace Stella McCartney, Liv Tyler’s Givenchy couture, and Vogue’s Hamish Bowles, who wore—what else?—a full tartan ensemble by Alexander McQueen.

“I got it from the McQueen archives. Its female match is in there,” he said, referring to the Savage Beauty exhibition being browsed by partygoers pre-dinner. “I have a twin!”

The over-the-top glamour of the evening wasn’t without its hiccups (including a pair of crashers who were escorted out shortly after their arrival), but while the steep red carpet steps, colliding ball gowns, and seas of shouting photographers might have been tricky to navigate, Naomi Campbell used her experience with McQueen to make it through. “Lee’s shows were very complicated!” she remembered. “You use your nerves to help you do the best job you can.”

Something tells us McQueen would have been pleased.