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NEW YORK — Welcome to Anna’s cotillion.

The “AngloMania” gala at The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was certainly glamorous and star-studded — including Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sienna Miller, Thandie Newton, Scarlett Johansson and Drew Barrymore, who were all gussied up in vivid designer frocks. But if there was ever any doubt the event is Anna Wintour‘s evening, it was dispelled Monday night. Despite sky-high table prices — from $50,000 to $150,000, to be exact — Vogue’s vetting process as to whom patrons should seat as guests bordered on passing through a needle’s eye. In short: celebs and socialites only, if you please.

The evening raised $4.5 million, but the costs had some guests grumbling, which wasn’t helped by the lengthy receiving line of the evening’s chairs, Wintour, Sienna Miller, Rose Marie Bravo, Christopher Bailey and the Duke of Devonshire — some even stopped to curtsy. But to whom? Some, like Mandy Moore, looked to jump the line entirely. “Can we sneak in? I can’t wait to get inside,” she sighed.

But if Brits are known for one thing, it’s eccentricity, and the evening lived up to the “AngloMania” name. It wasn’t just random interpretations on the Union Jack, but also a vast array of towering updos, plumed hats and billowing trains that gave the night a veritable punk feel. Of course, Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten bulldozing his way through the crowds throwing cockneyed insults at people who crossed his path just added to the irreverent mood.

“It’s so intimidating. It’s like the All Stars in baseball and then you add in the fashion,” explained Parker gaily. “Plus, you always want to be more civilized around the Brits.” Still, there was nothing prim or proper about her tartan Alexander McQueen getup.

Londoner Thandie Newton, meanwhile, opted for a sleek gold Gucci number instead of representing her countrymen. Not that the actress was apologetic. “It’s a global village. Everything is everything.”

This story first appeared in the May 3, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“It’s like Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ but then you have these funky pockets [of people],” Lopez said surveying the hackneyed group.

Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, whose stature caused one reveler to refer to him as the third Olsen, were whisked to the front of the receiving line. But some passed the time by toying with the hapless Beefeaters standing at attention. “Can you raise an eyebrow?” Liz Hurley asked devilishly of one.

Emily Mortimer was equally mischievous: “These British soldiers just make me want to be naughty. I just want to go and pinch their bottoms.”

Inside, over two courses of smoked Scottish salmon and lamb pie, guests buzzed around catching up with old friends or sneaking out for endless cigarette breaks. Linda Evangelista complimented Stefano Pilati on his boyish new do. “You have my old haircut and I have yours,” laughed the model.

But just as everyone was settling in for cozy chats, they were abruptly corralled into the Temple of Dendur for a performance from the musical “Billy Elliot.” Though many were reluctant to stray from their cocktail chatter, the young male dancer impressed even the most jaded onlookers, garnering a standing ovation.

The younger set of Alexis Bryan, Jack McCollough, Lazaro Hernandez, Gemma Kidd and Jacquetta Wheeler stayed on for the after dance, while hordes of guests decamped for night holes such as Bungalow 8, where Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney hosted an after party that was as celeb-studded as the main event. Marc Jacobs took over one booth, McQueen sat with Parker, while McCartney played hostess to Johansson and boyfriend Josh Hartnett. Kate Moss, Lenny Kravitz, Eva Mendes, Josh Lucas, John Legend and Eve poured through the door in quick succession and happily table-hopped while old-school Eighties hits played. Marilyn Manson chatted with Christian Louboutin, Julian Schnabel played dad at a table with son Vito and daughter Lola, Lindsay Lohan caught up with Harvey Weinstein and Nick Rhodes snapped the scene with his digital camera.

Those not fast enough out of the Met were unhappily caught in the mob scene at the door, as Selma Blair, Camilla Al Fayed and Brandon Davis discovered. Others had to be bundled through the back door, like the Olsen twins and John Galliano‘s crew, including Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend.

Joy Bryant, Bee Shaffer and Zoe Saldana repaired to The Double Seven, while others, including Yasmin Le Bon, Margherita Missoni and teen dancing machine Lily Cole, headed over to designer Alice Temperley‘s SoHo showroom for more fun and games.

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