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Everyone was on his or her best behavior Monday night at the Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even the peacocks. After trying to escape earlier, a feathered quartet sat watching as the begowned, bejeweled and be-tied throng filed by its enormous gilded cage.

“I grew up with peacocks. They are really loud. I hope they start making noise,” said a mischievous Stella McCartney, who brought husband Alasdhair Willis, as well as a dark-haired Amber Valletta and a Betty Boop-style Scarlett Johansson.

McCartney needn’t have worried: There was more than enough noise outside, as the paparazzi literally screamed at the celebs to stop and pose. Since that was one of their main reasons for being there, the celebs gladly did. (Of course, the evening also celebrated Paul Poiret and raised money for the Costume Institute — $5.8 million, up from $4.5 million the previous year.)

“That was very nerve-racking,” said Kirsten Dunst after ascending the stairs and reaching the safe haven of the museum’s Great Hall. “Everyone is so hyper out there.”

Little wonder, though, with the Jennifer triumvirate of Lopez, Garner and Connelly all arriving in quick succession, not to mention Cameron Diaz, Julianne Moore, Hilary Swank, Sandra Bullock and the pregnant Salma Hayek, who arrived on the arm of her fiancé, François-Henri Pinault. And that was just one group of stars. The young Hollywood set was there as well, represented by a tough-looking Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, not to mention every socialite, designer and model worth her salt — or, at least, those willing to stump for a ticket or, better yet, lucky enough to have someone do it for them.

“This is my first time at this kind of thing, man,” said Kate Bosworth, firmly hand in hand with beau James Rousseau. It was couples night: Gisele Bündchen brought Tom Brady (studiously avoiding the red carpet photogs), Ellen Pompeo stuck close to fiancé Chris Ivery, Naomi Watts hung onto Liev Schreiber, and Jessica Simpson and John Mayer caused a frenzy with the fans outside (Simpson’s

This story first appeared in the May 9, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

va-va-va-voom outfit looked like she was ready to work another type of stage).

Those who didn’t have the comforting arm of a paramour went one better: a designer.

“I’m always really anxious at these sorts of things,” admitted Christina Ricci, who arrived promptly at 7 p.m. with Francisco Costa. “But I loved my dress so much, I was just leaping and leaping around my room.”

Eva Mendes arrived on the arm of Michael Kors. “We’re secretly dating,” she joked. Marc Jacobs and Winona Ryder made a foursome with Stefano Pilati and Moore, Valentino walked Garner through the exhibit and Donatella Versace brought Swank.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus snapped pics of the peacocks — feathered and human — with date Narciso Rodriguez. “I could be the night’s official photographer,” said the comedienne.

The sluggish receiving line had some guests clucking impatiently, however. “Why is it so slow?” griped Mick Jagger, heading toward the quartet of greeters — Mayor Michael Bloomberg (“Hi, I’m Mike”), Cate Blanchett, Nicolas Ghesquière and Anna Wintour. “You curtsy and I’ll bow,” Jagger joked to fellow Brit Daphne Guinness.

Once inside the Charles Engelhard Court, guests were rubbernecking as they feasted their eyes on the elaborate ensembles and the even more elaborately decorated space, created by Jean-Hugues de Chatillon and Raul Avila. The entire room was swathed in varying Poiret-esque prints, down to the amorphous chandeliers. Guests supped on rosette de saumon fumé aux perles noires and escalope de veau aux morilles, before kicking back to listen to a Kors-clad Jennifer Hudson give an enthusiastic performance that probably was heard at MoMA 30 blocks away.

But it wasn’t all play and no work for the 750-strong crowd. Rupert Murdoch was seen having an intense tête-à-tête with Harvey Weinstein (about The Wall Street Journal, perhaps?), while Bill McComb of Liz Claiborne huddled with his new partner Rodriguez, who was repeatedly congratulated throughout the night over the deal.

As partygoers began to slowly thread their way out of the museum after a dessert of gâteau moka and crème anglaise, many stars braved the hungry photographers once more before finding their cars. Ghesquière and his entourage headed to Mr. Chow’s uptown for a birthday party for the designer, where the tables were removed so guests, including Wintour and Shelby Bryan, could dance. The party later moved on to The Box, while other celebs repaired to Bungalow 8 to finally let loose. Johansson playfully mooned pal McCartney on their way in, Ricci hung out with Costa while Josh Hartnett (who earlier had watched morosely as former flame Johansson walked into the Met), Bosworth, Mendes, Pompeo, Mira Sorvino, Jacobs and Kors banquette-hopped.

Same time, next year?

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