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Nectar of the Goddesses — Met Gala Raises $3 Million

It was all about backs, back-to-back backs, bare backs, backs dipping all the way down to bottoms, and no backs at all. It certainly wasn’t the evening for busts. Busts bit the dust. For some reason, bosoms in all shapes and sizes, which have been in everyone’s face lately, were tucked away for the night. And necks, you never saw so many long necks. Diana Vreeland, who thought the world of beauty revolved around a neck and a nose, would have been in Vreeland heaven.

This story first appeared in the April 30, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Goddess” was the name of the museum’s exhibit, and while goddesses did not exactly abound among the paying customers, there were certainly enough to go around. If ever there is to be a master class in stardom, call in Nicole Kidman to show them how. From the Oscars to the Metropolitan Museum Monday night, Nicole exemplified the word “star” and “goddess” in a way we haven’t seen since, oh, Rita Hayworth. She knows how to make an entrance and she wears clothes like, well, a goddess. She arrived at the Museum of Arts Costume Institute Gala on the arm of Adrien Brody in a giant black SUV, which is a heck of a lot easier to get out of when you stand so tall. And that’s another thing, Nicole is impossibly tall, impossibly svelte, impossibly soignée and impossibly gracious.

Everyone who reads should know by now that she wore a shimmering, white, one-shouldered Gucci gown, covered in more crystals than there are in Salzburg. It clinged, clanged, clung in the front and dipped, scooped, swooped in the back. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a free-falling ponytail and she wore diamond earrings to her shoulders that gave new meaning to the word waterfall. Her complexion is translucent and so was the glowing skin on her backless dress. She is every inch the star, that woman.

When she arrived at exactly 7:45 p.m., more than 200 screaming photographers and TV crews lined both sides of the museum’s staircase. She worked them endlessly, ignoring the minders who tried to hurry her along. It took her 16 minutes to climb the steps and satisfy the howling throngs. Adrien stood still for what seemed like a hundred pictures with her and then climbed the stairs leaving her to bask alone in thousands of flash bulbs. Waiting for his date at the top of the steps, Adrien said in a rather resigned way, “So this is what happens when you go out with a goddess.” Did you forget that he won an Oscar this year, too?

Finally, with good grace, he walked her in where she greeted several hundred of the 800 dinner guests in a receiving line next to the two other chairmen of the evening, sexy smiling Tom Ford in an elegant dinner jacket with a gardenia in his lapel and an enormously chic Anna Wintour of the Vogue Wintours in a luxurious white feathered jacket and white charmeuse dress by Dior. Nicole stood her ground for 45 minutes and didn’t go into dinner until Tom Ford gently guided her in at 9 p.m.

Nicole, who now lives on Church Street in TriBeCa, announced she loved being in New York and that she was going to come back to the Met with her children to see the “Goddess” exhibition. When someone asked if she felt like a goddess, she laughed and said, “Maybe a little, but only because of this beautiful dress that Tom made me. I trust his judgment completely and just told him to make me something that would suit my figure.” She went on to say that “men should treat their mothers, daughters, girlfriends and wives like goddesses, and, if they did that all the time, there would be fewer problems in the world.” So smart and beautiful, too.

Robert Isabell transformed the Met’s restaurant into an all-white Grecian temple with white linen panels lining the walls. Towering crab apple blossom branches centered the crisp, cream-colored covered tables, and the room was edged with 5,000 white and pink peonies. Right at home in this perfect setting was C.Z. Guest in a white and gold dress especially made for her by her dinner guest, Oscar de la Renta. C.Z.’s daughter, Cornelia, wore a cocoa chiffon dress with a beaded top by Badgley Mischka. Actually, there were more beautiful dresses and jewels on more beautiful women than you would see anywhere, including Paris. Kate Hudson wore her hair up with dripping tendrils and a wide diamond headband. Glorious Carolina Herrera wore an ermine capelet over her own design, an off-white and black column, and her fabulous diamond and emerald jewels. Iman with her husband, David Bowie, was in white satin, one of the few dresses with a deep neckline. Lynn Wyatt wore vintage white couture, enormous diamond earrings and a diamond flower pin. Vera Wang was in white with a plunging back of her own design held up by black straps.

Julia Koch was in a white Valentino with jeweled crisscross straps and Tiffany Dubin wore a white Versace with a dripping gold necklace. Some of the ladies chose black including Linda Evangelista, who wore a diamond cross wrapped around her endless neck with a black cord. Kirsten Dunst, who arrived with her beau, Jake Gyllenhaal, wore a blue cap with her black dress. It looked a little out of place, but she is still young.

Sophie Dahl’s black dress had strategic straps holding up her cupped bust. Angie Harmon was in a black taffeta ball gown. Lisa Jackson wore a black lace and satin slip dress cut on the bias by Vera Wang, and Charlize Theron wore black and gold.

Stella McCartney’s dress of her own design was a short, deep burgundy worn with gold shoes and a matching purse. Nan Kempner wore a flowered confection by Valentino — she came with him — and suffered a slight accident. Her train got stepped on more than once, leaving Nan for the moment with a lot more Nan than she cared to show. Arianna von Hohenlohe Boardman wore a claret red ball gown with a black spider motif by her secret Parisian, Raymond Ray, and La Belle Blaine Trump wore a draped pale blush chiffon into which she was literally sewn by the designer, Bill Bull.

Harold Koda, who curated the show of 140 dresses by such past masters of the goddess look as Madame Grès, Fortuny and Charles James, as well as such modern masters as Mary McFadden, Ralph Lauren and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, was taking well deserved bows.

Tickets to the gala cost a staggering $3,500 each and included a Glorious Foods dinner and a performance by Diana Ross, who arrived at the party in a scarlet chiffon dress and performed her greatest hits in a black one with a hairdo that weighed about 14 pounds and was the same size as the Temple of Dendur.

Around midnight, Nicole gathered up her glittering dress so that no one would step on her train and prepared to leave. When it was suggested that she might want to exit from a side door, she said, “No, let’s go out the front.” Meanwhile, Adrien Brody’s mother, the noted photographer Sylvia Plachy, was patiently waiting outside in the great hall for her son to rescue her from the teaming crowd. As he, Nicole and Mother descended the Met’s stairs, Sylvia slipped and fell, rolling down the steps and knocking into Nicole, who tottered on her skyscraper heels but luckily fell into the arms of Adrien, who saved her from falling on her pretty little face in front of all the photographers. Thereby avoiding a very unhappy ending.

The bottom line? Money is always the bottom line. And on Monday night, the take was $3 million. So congratulations chic and stunning Anna, sexy Tom and Goddess Nicole.

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