Fashion and Mayhem: The Met Has a Press Event for this Year’s Costume Institute Exhibit

The red carpets are rolling out and things are getting fashion-y because today is the big Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum. We had the chance to check out the press event this morning for the Institute’s exhibition “Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations,” and it was packed end to end with cameras, curators, and women in pretty necklaces.

“The steps of the Met, which is where guests walk the paparazzi gauntlet, provide one of the most dramatic and demanding red carpet entrances of any event,” writes The Washington Post. Indeed, the day after the “Met Ball,” reviewing what everyone wore has become an annual happening, like the day-after Oscar discussions. This is what model Coco Rocha will be wearing and we’ll review it in advance: Ghastly.

Amazon, a big sponsor of this year’s exhibition, will be broadcasting the red carpet live tonight online. More about that here.

This morning’s event wasn’t about the gala, but rather the exhibit itself.

After a quick zip through the exhibit we were seated in the sculpture garden with throngs of media, all craning their necks to see the VIPs — designer and exhibit co-star Miuccia Prada, Vogue‘s Anna Wintour, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. None of them made any remarks during the 15-minute-or-so presser, but their attendance afterwards sent photogs into a tizzy, some literally tripping over wheelchairs to get pictures. You can catch a few of our photos on my Twitter feed. (Plus the news that I rode the elevator with Suzy Menkes, who will be at the ball tonight and walked the press red carpet with me.)

The Met’s director Thomas Campbell kicked things off with brief remarks about the importance of video for this exhibit (director Baz Luhrmann worked on the footage) and how tonight’s ball is “the most extraordinary in the Met’s history.” Then Costume Institute curators, Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton, took to the dais to go into a bit more detail about the thinking behind the exhibit. Some of the terms used: “feminist,” “sexuality,” “ugly chic,” “real body,” and “tongue-in-cheek playfulness.” Based on what we saw as we quickly passed through the gallery (amateur snapshot above), it’s a must-see.

Bolton spoke with me about the expectations for this year, specifically, how the Institute is handling this year’s exhibition after the smashing success of last year’s. “Savage Beauty,” a retrospective of the work of designer Alexander McQueen, was one of the top 10 most-visited exhibits in the museum’s history. McQueen committed suicide in 2010.

“Because last year’s show was incredibly emotional, we wanted to do something radically different,” Bolton said, calling this year’s exhibit, “more high-concept and intellectual.”

“That was a deliberate decision on our part,” he said.

The success of last year’s exhibit was unexpected, and certainly the curators want to create something that appeals to audiences. But organizing a blockbuster wasn’t the goal.

“We want to create something that relates to people,” he said, to present “the artistry of fashion.” But what about all the people who aren’t high fashion in their daily lives and do their shopping at the local mall?

“A lot of high fashion finds its way to the mall because of the Internet,” said Bolton.

Speaking of high fashion, here’s a snapshot at left of Bolton being interviewed rocking the heck out of this short suit.