NEW YORK -- Old-style glamour - especially in black and white - ruled the night air as stars of Hollywood and the fashion world converged on the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday evening for the annual Costume Institute gala, the biggest event on the New York fashion calendar.
This year, the glamour quotient was raised a notch: Whereas last year's theme was punk, this time women were focusing on flowing gowns, and men were asked to dress in white tie - full evening dress, including tails, in other words. A few men brought along their top hats.
The white-tie request was in keeping with the theme of this year's Costume Institute exhibit, which opens to the public on Thursday: "Charles James: Beyond Fashion." James, who died in 1978, was a mid-20th century designer who specialized in spectacular, sculptured gowns made with intricate draping techniques. It's the inaugural exhibit of the new, $40 million Anna Wintour Costume Center, named for the Vogue editor.
Wintour herself, overseeing the evening's festivities, wore multi-colored Chanel couture. Among the early arrivals, actress Sarah Jessica Parker seemed to be zeroing right in on the theme of James-like glamour, wearing a sumptuous Oscar de la Renta ball gown with a black bodice and flowing white skirt, with a gridlike pattern on the back; the dress was also emblazoned with de la Renta's name.
Other guests going for gowns in black and white included actress Hailee Steinfeld in Prabal Gurung, who seemed to be evoking James' classic 1953 Clover dress, a study in black-and-white color-blocking. Anna Kendrick also chose black and white, from J. Mendel.
Parker's outfit, especially, seemed to be a sure-fire hit with fashionistas. Another fashion star, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o, seemed to divide fans: She wore a short shift covered by a beaded and feathered overlay in bright green, with a matching headband and a bright green clutch, too. It looked vaguely flapper-inspired, perhaps a tribute to James' early years.
Echoing an entirely different vibe was comedian Sarah Silverman in a deep red Zac Posen, evoking a famous Cecil Beaton photo of James outfits. Posen told The Associated Press earlier in the day that he'd been influenced by James throughout his career - the couturier's gowns, he said, exude "a deep love and passion for the sculpture of the human body."
Supermodel Karolina Kurkova was a hit in Marchesa: She wore a tiered, midnight blue dress in satin organza, covered with white flower details. Less well-received: Katie Holmes, in a bright yellow off-the-shoulder Marchesa number.
Actress Idina Menzel evoked her recent success voicing the movie "Frozen" with an icy all-white white concoction with a feathery train by Donna Karan Atelier. Also in all white: Rihanna, in a sleek, midriff-baring Stella McCartney design. Right behind her on the red carpet was Kate Bosworth in pale pink McCartney.
There were, though, pronounced bursts of color: Actress Emmy Rossum wore a bright, bold floral Carolina Herrera gown in hues of yellow and purple. Allison Williams of HBO's "Girls" wore an all-orange de la Renta gown, whose drapery at the bottom evoked James' technique. Actress Emma Stone, riding high right now in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," was certainly bright in a contemporary looking, midriff-baring purple top and long red skirt by designer Thakoon. Reese Witherspoon wore a bright, deep pink gown by McCartney.
One of the busiest designers of the evening seemed to be Ralph Lauren. Not only was Lauren dressing a host of stars; he was dressing his fellow designer, Calvin Klein.
Klein was wearing a Ralph Lauren Purple Label black tuxedo tailcoat with a white pique formal shirt, white pique vest and bowtie. Lauren also dressed actress Rachel McAdams, who wore a pale pink silk evening dress with a chiffon train, and gold leather heels.
Also wearing Lauren: soccer great David Beckham, who wore a white shawl collar tuxedo jacket and black tuxedo pant, and Johnny Depp, in a black tuxedo tailcoat and white pique vest.
TV personality Andy Cohen also wore Lauren as he accompanied Parker on the red carpet. He joked in interviews that, given the size of her outfit, it was like bringing the Statue of Liberty to the ball.
Also apparently logistically challenged was actress Rashida Jones in a purple Tory Burch gown: "If I stop moving, I might fall," she said on the red carpet. "I'm not kidding."
Actress Dakota Johnson wore all-navy Jason Wu: a beaded camisole with a silk gauze skirt, topping it off with Christian Louboutin sandals, and Carolina Amato black satin gloves.
Several couples wore Calvin Klein: They included Anne Hathaway and Adam Shulman, and Christy Turlington Burns and Ed Burns. Also wearing Klein: actors Bryan Cranston and Paul Rudd, and TV late-night host Seth Meyers. The women's looks were designed by Francisco Costa, and the men's looks by Italo Zucchelli.