Kate Middleton's wedding dress, designed by Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton, was a fantastic lead-in to that other huge event happening on Monday in New York: the annual Costume Institute Gala, put on by Vogue. Up at 6 a.m. to watch the royal wedding was Vogue's special-events planner Sylvana Soto-Ward, who is planning this year's gala at the Met for the second time. The exhibit the event will open is devoted to the work of Alexander McQueen, and Monday night's gala is meant to celebrate his life and work. This means the red carpet should be one of the most over-the-top ever, with the many famous guests wearing lots of new and archive McQueen pieces. While you can get a preview of the party décor and more in Vogue's brand new Met Ball iPad app on Monday, we rang up Sylvana to get more details on everything from the McQueen dresses to the live performance to the dinner menu.
The royal wedding was a great way to get excited about the McQueen exhibit again. What did you think of it?
It was certainly fortuitous — we were thrilled [that she wore McQueen] obviously. I thought she looked beautiful. And I was up anyway sort of dealing with things so it was a nice distraction for a second.
How does planning the party this year compare to doing it for the first time last year? What are you glad you know this time around?
Simple things, like which gallery in the Met has cell service. Like if you really need to reach someone and you have no bars because you're in the Egyptian wing, but if you move five feet to the right you have two bars — which you learn after spending hours and hours living in the Met, which I have.
Last year's gala opened the Costume Institute's exhibit on American fashion, which was very different from the McQueen exhibit. So how does this year's party differ from last year's?
We switched rooms this year, so we're having the dinner in the Temple, which is great — there are a lot less statues to move so that's nice. Obviously décor and all those things are secret but if you buy the iPad app you can have a sneak peak as to what the décor might look like. But I can say it's very much in keeping with Alexander's aesthetic — he's done everything from gothic to extremely romantic and ethereal, so I think people will be very, very excited to see how we've interpreted his career. It's going to be very, very beautiful; last year was very simple, American, clean lines, we worked with Gap. This is much more elegant and involved.
Last year Lady Gaga performed. What can you tell us about this year's show?
It's a big surprise. I can tell you it's completely different from last year, and it's more of a production, I'll say. Just given the fact that the Temple provides this amazing platform and stage, it's going to be far more involved than anything we've ever had.
Everyone's dying to know what kinds of McQueen dresses we'll see on the red carpet.
McQueen is doing an incredible job with just the selection of dresses that are being sent out to all the fabulous people attending. It will be nice to see how Alexander's big supporters, like Sarah Jessica Parker, want to represent him. I think there will be a lot of risk-taking — I think people will arrive in all manner of tulle and spikes and all sorts of things from his collections. It will be a really exciting fashion night for people I think, more so than any other year — the whole British theme allows you to step outside of your comfort zone and experiment with something interesting.
Are we going to see more archive McQueen dresses or more of the new pieces designed by Sarah Burton?
It'll be a really nice mix — a lot of pieces from Alexander's collection are in the exhibition so there's a limited amount of things that are available. I've spoken to guests who are wearing McQueen that they've collected from seasons past that they haven't worn in ten years. People are literally shopping their closets and pulling out these incredible gowns that they'd never thought they'd wear again.
Do the Vogue editors give lots of guests dressing advice?
We sent a number of our guests dresses — the dresses we've pulled are in keeping with the McQueen aesthetic, certainly more daring, lots of ruffles and tulle and lace. It's not traditional. I think what we told all our guests is that it's always been a night for fashion and it's unlike any other red carpet event — people are expecting you to show up in something that isn't safe, that's a statement, and no one can really say anything about it because there are no hard and fast rules. It's fashion and if you can pull it off, we love it.
What kind of food are you serving?
It's going to be very traditional, Scottish-inspired in honor of McQueen. The menu is finalized — we had a delicious tasting a few days ago.
Is haggis on the menu?
And what are you wearing?
I'm wearing McQueen. It is an archive piece from one of Alexander's collections, and it's really beautiful, and it happens to be extremely comfortable so I can run around in it, which is extremely exciting. At the moment I'm staring at a pair of nude Charlotte Olympia pumps that are about six inches high and have a massive platform and look amazing with the dress, but I'm afraid of them. So I might change those.