The Met Gala 2023: Cat Costuming and Picturesque Pearls

The annual fundraising fashion event’s theme paid tribute to Karl Lagerfeld but was deemed controversial due to offensive remarks the designer made throughout his career



Lagerfeld’s fashion style and use of fur had A-list celebrities such as Doja Cat (second from left) and Lil Nas X (second from right) dressed in cat-inspired costumes.


The Met Gala is the biggest night in fashion, and is known for attracting the attention of several audiences in anticipation of the glamor. The battle between the best-dressed celebrities from various professions is held every year on the first Monday of May to benefit the Met Museum’s Costume Institute. Themed “In Honor of Karl,” this year’s Met Gala took place on May 1 and Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, has returned to host the Met Gala, a responsibility she has held since 1995.

The Met Museum celebrated the opening of the 2023 Costume Institute Exhibition, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.” Lagerfeld, a German fashion designer, worked for Patou, Balmain, Chloé, Fendi, his self-titled brand and, most notably, Chanel, which he headed for over three decades. 

Lagerfeld’s signature look — dark glasses, a white ponytail and fingerless leather gloves — is instantly recognizable in the fashion world. In terms of design, he’s known for revamping classic brands to fit present tastes. The theme produced controversy, however, due to the designer being notoriously controversial. He actively reinforced the fashion industry’s lack of size inclusiveness by critiquing public figures such as Adele and Heidi Klum’s bodies. Furthermore, he claimed to be “fed up” with the #MeToo movement and has famously made sexist and racist comments.  

Despite the debate, about 400 high-brow guests attended the event this year. Attendees could wear one of Lagerfeld’s creations or something that nods to his work to fit the theme. Even rival designers of Lagerfeld’s set out to include trademarks of his amongst their work. Pearls, camellia flowers and black-and-white looks dominated the steps of the Met.

Below are some of my favorite looks: 

Michaela Coel in custom Maison Schiaparelli: Coel’s dazzling Maison Schiaparelli gown references Chanel’s usage of costume jewelry, similar to the jewelry Lagerfeld featured in his fall 1991 Chanel collection. The pearls and chains pay perfect homage to the gala’s theme. As a Schiaparelli fan, I am glad to see that the gown still holds true to Schiaparelli’s house surrealist codes despite drawing inspiration from another designer. 

Nicole Kidman in custom Chanel: Kidman wore the same dress she sported in her 2004 Chanel N°5 campaign. Its pink tulle train is strikingly romantic. Although the dress’ style is somewhat  retro, its allure speaks to Lagerfeld’s timeless designs.

Dua Lipa in Chanel: Lipa sported a stunning Chanel wedding dress from Lagerfeld’s fall/winter 1992 collection. It’s lovely to see a celebrity like Lipa, the modern epitome of pop, sporting a vintage Chanel look. I believe the hat originally worn with the dress on the runway, however, would have enhanced this look even more. 

Doja Cat in Oscar de la RentaDoja Cat wore a gown designed by Oscar de la Renta, a longtime friend of Lagerfeld. The look is one of many from the evening which drew inspiration from Lagerfeld’s beloved cat, Choupette. There is no one better to dress as Choupette than Doja Cat. Doja Cat’s look maintains highly accurate feline features, while still preserving elegance with the white feather train. 

Anne Hathaway in custom VersaceHathaway’s Versace gown paid tribute to Chanel with its tweed, pearls and three-dimensional camellia flowers. The actress is one of my favorite stars to watch on the runway, and she certainly did not disappoint. The cutouts and slim shape put a sexy spin on the classically-sophisticated tweed.

Bad Bunny in Jacquemus: Bad Bunny arrived in a long stole decorated with an homage to Chanel’s iconic camellia flowers. His suit was backless,  an element I rarely see in menswear and would like to see more. Bad Bunny could make a name for himself in fashion if he continues to arrive at red carpets in looks as chic as this one.

Cardi B in Chenpeng StudioCardi B’s gray wig mirrors Lagerfeld’s gray locks, while her black skirt features camellias. This was only one of Cardi B’s three fabulous looks of the evening. In this featured look, which was her first of three outfits of the night, the skirt is structured, providing her with a princess silhouette. The collared shirt also adds a layer of maturity to the look’s fun playful bottom half.

A$AP Rocky in GucciA$AP Rocky’s outfit was a sharp allusion to a famous look Lagerfeld sported in 2004. My favorite elements are the tartan skirt, which I like to wear myself, and the stacked belts. The belts add an avant garde component.

Rihanna in ValentinoRihanna is often the queen of the red carpet but in this case, she was one of the rulers of the white carpet. She wore an ornate white gown with a camellias cowl. Looking equally sophisticated and eye-catching, Rihanna did not disappoint.

Honorable mentions: Kristen Stewart, Janelle Monet, Kate Moss, Maude Apatow and Naomi Cambell.

Here are some subtle flops:

Ice Spice in BalmainAs much as I adore Ice Spice, I think she deserved better. The gown the artist wore did not have as much of a form fitting structure as I’d hoped. It also does not speak to the spirit of Lagerfeld or his archives, other than being white. Hopefully, the artist’s next red carpet look will better accentuate her natural beauty and style.

Lil Nas X in Pat McGrathLil Nas X’s outfit on the steps of the fashion event was composed of minimal clothing, which I found distasteful. The whole point of the gala is to wear clothes! Fortunately, the look will likely be lost among his other imaginative red carpet looks.

Anna Wintour in ChanelWintour is a Chanel girl through and through, but she did not impress at her own gala. The over-dress’ pattern is distracting, and resembles a glorified raincoat.

Overall, the celebrities did a better-than-usual job at staying on-theme. It’s refreshing to see designers and brands not directly associated with Lagerfeld pull together looks that capture his essence, although I would have loved to see more iconic ’90s Chanel archive looks, as well as Fendi fur and lace dresses. Now the fashion world will rest, however, until the next big red carpet’s approach with awards season.