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Costume Drama

A panel of fashion experts salutes the few brave souls who attempted the Met Costume Institute gala’s eighteenth-century Dangerous Liaisons theme. And deconstructs their efforts.

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Amber Valetta, model (1)
Ann Roth, Hollywood costume designer: This is a man’s wig! She looks like an exaggerated barrister.
Harriet Mays Powell, New York Magazine fashion director: This reminds me of that first cover of George magazine.
Hamish Bowles, Vogue European editor-at-large: I think it was brave to do the hair, the corset, and the skirt. There’s an excessive amount of information in that skirt. But I love that she did an eighteenth-century hair-don’t.
John Bartlett, designer: Love the tea-kettle wig. Let them eat cake!

Marina Rust, socialite (2)
Bowles: It’s quite arch to have gone for a postrevolutionary look. She is an ambulant Josephine, or Madame Recamier.
Roth: Well, it’s lovely, but wrong century. Napoleon.
Powell: This was not costume-y, just elegant.
Bartlett: Empire strikes back! My favorite.

Amanda Brooks, Tuleh muse (3)
Roth: This costume needs fitting! The corset looks like the kind of thing you buy online for background people in a nineteenth-century movie. And what is that tulle? Mingy. You can tell the corset doesn’t fit by her posture. The whole point of a corset is to give you a shape.
Bowles: The corset is very in keeping with the heaving-bosom mood. Though in historical terms, it’s probably closer to Constantin Guys than Fragonard.
Bartlett: This is a pageant dress that would look better on a 6-year-old contestant from Mississippi.

Amanda Harlech, Chanel muse (4)
Roth: Ah, the Goya dress! Did Chanel really make that dress?
Bowles: She looks like a pirate’s moll. She’s used a skirt which really is eighteenth-century in its fabric color and volume and put it with a very twenty-first-century Chanel jacket.
Powell: She looks like she’s been through the French Revolution. She’s trying too hard to make it eclectic.
Bartlett: I love the equestrian chic.

Anne Heche, actress (5)
Roth: Is that a tube top?
Bowles: She’s already made it to the scaffold. I love the out-to-lunch Gainsborough hair. I certainly think the combination of outfit and hair qualifies as dangerous. But good luck to her!
Bartlett: I think there might be some ecstasy residue from that weekend in Fresno running through those veins.

Jamie-Lynn DiScala, actress (6)
Roth: It’s like Gunsmoke. Miss Kitty at the card table in a fake nineteenth-century costume. Why you would put so many seams in that fabulous yellow satin, I can’t imagine.
Powell: It’s like a halfway house—she’s trying.
Bartlett: I bet there’s a sexy black thong underneath all that boning.

Zac Posen, designer (7)
Roth: He dared to wear those satin pants with that weeny little pleat! Oh, dear.
Bowles: He looks like a pirate. But I think that Zac has those rather piratical looks anyway, so the outfit really suits him.
Powell: Fashion’s favorite poser.
Bartlett: At first this Pirates of Penzance thing struck me as a bit Art Students League. But then I started to like that he’s not taking himself so seriously.


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