Some of the Old Guard may have been expecting the worst, but in fact, the Costume Institute’s homage to Rock Style at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York Monday night was without doubt the best Costume Institute gala in years.
“Over the top,” declared Nina Griscom. “There are a thousand people here and not one them isn’t rich or famous. It’s like Noah’s ark.”
From the beginning, the evening — chaired by Aerin Lauder, Anna Wintour and Tommy Hilfiger — seemed like a swirl of boldfaced names from two opposite poles: Vibe and The Social Register.
Stella McCartney and Liv Tyler — the Daughters of the Rock Revolution — romped up the Met’s red-carpeted steps wearing their loony version of Groupie Chic, while Naomi Campbell turned it on one more time for the photographers in her white Tommy Hilfiger column. Trudie Styler surveyed it all from the highest step, just as Blaine Trump slid out of her car in a slinky Galliano number.
Henry Kissinger made a grand arrival and so did Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Marie Chantal and Pavlos of Greece came up the stairs just in front of Matt Dillon, while Jennifer Lopez had just about everybody gawking at her ample — or should we say statuesque — figure. Both Puff Daddy and Annette de la Renta — Puff Mama to some of her friends — avoided the crowd entirely and slipped in the side door.
It was not the most elegant crowd ever to grace the Metropolitan Museum, but with a theme like rock ‘n’ roll, anything goes. Take Pia Getty in space-age teenybopper Courreges and electric-fried hair, a daring Diane Von Furstenberg in clinging lacy pantsuit, or Matthew Williamson in his frayed vintage embroidered jacket, complete with provenance.
“Jade Jagger gave it to me,” he said, “but I can’t say for sure whether her father ever wore it.”
“The women look so glamorous,” said Narciso Rodriguez, taking it all in. “The men are even more gaudy.”
Hilfiger’s neo-Edwardian tuxedo came off as tastefully understated by comparison.
“I look like their butler,” he joked, as he ushered Steven Tyler and some of his cronies through the crowd.
And how badly did fashion’s louder side rile the staid museum’s ghosts?
Not at all.
“I think Mrs. Vreeland would have loved it, because she was very, very modern,” ventured Carolina Herrera.
“She was a very swinging chick in her way,” added C.Z. Guest.
Shortly after 8:30 — when dinner was announced — Gwyneth Paltrow arrived in a beaded Gucci gown. Calvin Klein and Donatella Versace paused for a moment to check themselves in Donatella’s gold compact.
Deeper inside the Met, the crowd began settling around their tables in the Petrie Court to the sounds of the Doors classic “Riders on the Storm.” Huge images of Deborah Harry, Lenny Kravitz and Marilyn Manson were projected across the walls, above neo-classical European sculptures of maidens in flowing togas.
“Milla [Jovovich] was telling me she’d never been to the Met before today,” said Michael Kors.
“It’s fabulous here,” chirped the actress, practically bouncing out of her chair — and her beaded, spaghetti-strap Michael Kors.
She was drowned out by a blast of hip-hop as Puff Daddy’s dancers stormed the stage, thrusting their bikini-clad pelvises at the front tables where Tom Ford hosted Paltrow and Kyra Sedgwick and Donatella had Christina Ricci and Maxwell.
“Sex at the Met!” shouted Kors. “And why not?”
“I know you ain’t used to hip-hop here at the Met,” boomed Puffy, “but we gonna have a good time.”
He launched into another song and called for the crowd to “push it up like this.” Oscar de la Renta threw his hands over his head and pushed it up like that.
Henry Kissinger leaned over to Pat Buckley.
“Why does he call himself Fluffy?” Kissinger wondered.
Across the room, John Galliano was quietly talking, dressed in his own couture Jim Morrison look, a shiny black python suit that crackled ominously with his every move.
Galliano, who has another engagement tonight — the opening of the LVMH tower with his boss, Bernard Arnault, and Hillary Rodham Clinton — said that of course the secret of the party was the mix.
“I suppose that’s what makes a good party, as any host would say,” he ventured.
In fact, if the Old Guard cottoned to the New Guard, the real surprise was that the feeling was mutual.
“Those Ladies are real fun,” Galliano said.
Even hard rocker Steven Tyler savored the thought of being under the same roof with the likes of C.Z., Pat and Nan.
“I love it,” he rasped. “It’s about time we rub shoulders with all of ’em.”

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