NEW YORK (AP) — Kim Kardashian shut down the Met Gala red carpet Monday in one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic dresses, a gold beaded body hugger Monroe wore when she sexily sang happy birthday to President John F. Kennedy 60 years ago.
Kardashian had to lose 16 pounds to fit into the dress, designed by Jean Louis and purchased in 2016 by the Ripley’s Believe or Not! museum in Orlando, Florida, for a whopping $4.81 million.
“It was such a challenge,” she said. “I was determined to fit it.”
The dress originally cost $12,000. It was so tight Monroe had to be sewn into it when she purred “Happy birthday, Mr. president” on May 19, 1962, at a Madison Square Garden fundraiser. She died three months later. It has been known as the “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress ever since.
Earlier, Blake Lively smiled for the cameras in a grand Versace gown, with husband Ryan Reynolds in brown velvet, Billie Eilish went with an upcycled green lace-trim dress from Gucci and Cynthia Erivo wore sheer white Louis Vuitton with a matching head piece as the Met Gala returned to its berth on the first Monday in May after years of pandemic upheaval.
The celebration of American design was themed to gilded glamour, sprouting classic black tuxedoes for many of the men and lots of dresses in black and white for the women. Others paid literal homage to New York City and still more shimmered in metallic golds and silver.
“Black and white are THE colors for the evening,” said Holly Katz, a stylist and host of the Fashion Crimes podcast.
Lively, one of the evening’s co-hosts, wore a bronze and rose gold look that transformed into a shimmery layer of baby blue as a large bow was pulled. Ella’s lively look drew inspiration from both the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the blue ceiling of Grand Central Station.
“Instead of looking to fashion to influence the dress, I looked to New York City architecture,” Lively said.
Cardi B., accompanied by Donatella Versace, was an over-the-top golden goddess in a dress of mesh and chains, a fitting birthday for the designer.
“I wanted to give a woman, and Donatella brings a woman,” said Cardi, who gave birth to a son recently. The inspiration was modern Gibson girl.
Gigi Hadid was more redefined cat woman than golden girl. She wore a tight-as-skin, blood red Latex catsuit with a corseted bodice and huge, heavy quilted coat from Versace. She walked gingerly up the steps.
Lizzo, meanwhile, got the crowd cheering when she played her gold flute for fans watching the parade of fashion outside.
Camila Cabello worked a huge white gown with a midriff top, from Prabal Gurung, while Jordan Roth, the theater producer, provided a reveal of his own, removing a black, egg-like shell to a matching bulbous pants suit. Janelle Monáe offered a royal wave in a black and white bedazzled helmet piece and slinky gown with head piece.
“Amazing. I’m proud to be American. I’m proud to be wearing Ralph Lauren. This is gilded glamor from the future,” Monáe told The Associated Press.
New York Mayor Eric Adams put politics front and center in a tux emblazoned with “End Gun Violence” on the back. Former presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton was in a Bordeaux-colored gown designed by Joseph Altuzarra with the names of historic women sewn into the hem and neckline. They include Abigail Adams, Shirley Chisolm and Madeleine Albright.
Clinton’s last Met Gala was a while ago.
“I told Anna I would come every 20 years,” she said.
The cast of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” joined forces in sparkling suits, capes and gowns from Prada. The film’s star, Austin Butler, wore a cropped suit and silk scarf with a jeweled brooch. Luhrmann said his film is, ultimately, about America.
Maude Apatow, in a black off-shoulder look, accessorized with Cartier, including a wide diamond choker.
Vogue livestream co-host Vanessa Hudgens made her way up the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a vaguely Victorian black sheer lace gown with a long train. She was joined by La La Anthony, her fellow Vogue host who wore a deep red look with cut out shoulders from LaQuan Smith.
“I’m practically naked,” Hudgens joked.
Anthony said: “Those stairs are intimidating.”
And if the Met Gala’s return feels like one of those what, already moments, it is.
It’s been just under eight months since the last gala, an annual fundraiser that raises eight-figure sums for the Met’s Costume Institute. Pre-pandemic, about 600 A-listers from fashion, sports, music, film, TV, technology and beyond were invited. This year and last, the numbers were closer to 400. The 2020 gala was canceled.
More than $16.4 million was raised last year. The starry event is the institute’s primary budget feeder.
This year’s gala coincides with the opening of the second part of a two-part exhibit at the Costume Institute focused on American fashion and style. The evening’s dress code is gilded glamor and white tie, a la the Gilded Age, that tumultuous period between the Civil War and the turn of the 20th century known for its robber barons, drama and grandeur.
Some of the stars included extra touches. Gabrielle Union said the red jewels in her hair de ella to go with her de ella Versace dress de ella represented the blood shed by people of color during the Gilded Age.
This year’s walk up the Grand Staircase, lined by red roses, returns the gala to its legendary berth on the first Monday in May, with the official livestream appearing on Vogue’s website.
Vogue’s Anna Wintour, who has run the gala since 1995, wore feathery Chanel and a jeweled tiara that has been in her family since 1910. She continues as one of the night’s honorary co-chairs, along with designer Tom Ford and Instagram’s Adam Mosseri. The other official co-chairs for 2022 are Regina King and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
While many on Wintour’s carefully tended guest list follow the dress code, others go their own way. Interpretation is everything. Think Rihanna in a papal hat, Billy Porter as a sun god carried on a litter by shirtless men and Lady Gaga peeling off layers as the fashion world came to a standstill to watch.
Eilish wore a custom Gucci corset look of ivory and duchesse satin with green lace and a padded bustle. Erivo’s look de ella came with a large train as she held hands with Sarah Jessica Parker, who wore custom Christopher John Rogers, a white and black striped Cinderella ballgown with a pink and black head piece.
Alicia Keys’ Ralph Lauren dress was inspired by her native New York City, with a cape evoking the New York City skyline outlined in small hand-placed crystals. Her husband, Swizz Beatz, also a native New Yorker, donned a New York sports jacket.
Keys said her dress was meant to “represent an empire state of mind and a city of gods here tonight.”
Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, showed up with his mother, Maye Musk, a former model adorned in Chopard pearls and other jewels. Her son de ella went with a classic tux with tails.
Tessa Thompson, meanwhile, chose a bright cotton candy ink tulle Carolina Herrera dress, designer Wes Gordon at her side. She said her look was made of 200 meters of tulle. Gordon Thompson said he told her pink was her favorite color and he took it from there.
Ariana DeBose was resplendent in golden Moschino by Jeremy Scott.
“This guy turned me into a fashion Oscar,” she said.
And the gala included a marriage proposal. Former state Assembly candidate Bobby Digi Olisa got down on one knee to pop the question to a stunned Laurie Cumbo, the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs.
What’s a Met Gala without more than one Kardashian, or six. The entire family showed up, including Kylie Jenner in a white ballgown with a matching hat and big sister Kourtney Kardashian in deconstructed Thom Browne to go with beaux Travis Barker’s Thom Brown suit. Kendall Jenner was in black as she played “devil and angel” with Kylie. Sister Khloe Kardashian was in gold and matriarch Kris Jenner wore canary yellow.
To Gwen Stefani, gilded glamor apparently meant neon green, complete with long matching opera gloves and a crop top to go with her flower-adorned ball skirt.
Sans husband Justin Bieber, Hailey Bieber walked in an elegant Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello slip dress with a feather-trimmed coat in white.
Katy Perry, usually a showstopper as a hamburger and other wacky looks over the years, donned understated Oscar de la Renta this time around.
Associated Press writers Nardos Haile and John Carucci in New York contributed to this story.