The Best Eye-Catching Beauty Looks at the 2023 Met Gala


 Seven words from Karl Lagerfeld adorn a doorway at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s sumptuous new exhibit honoring the late, legendary designer: “Fashion does not belong in a museum.”

Andrew Bolton, who masterminds the New York museum’s blockbuster Costume Institute shows each year, chuckled as he led a visitor through that doorway this weekend, a few days before opening, with crews nearby bustling to prepare for Monday’s splashy Met Gala.

“That’s what Karl said to me when I met him,” the star curator said. “He believed fashion was not art — it belonged on the street. So, I really don’t know what he would think of all this! I’m not sure he would come.”

“All this” is a lavish, loving tribute to the hugely prolific career of German-born Lagerfeld, who died in 2019 at 85 after more than a half-century of designing that left a deep mark on luxury fashion, especially at Chanel, but also at Fendi, at his own eponymous label, and elsewhere.

Set in 14 galleries, the show’s very walls have been constructed to embody the essential contradiction or duality, in Lagerfeld’s style and persona — a series of curved and straight lines. The show, titled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” is large in scope but intricately detailed, and clear in its message: Lagerfeld’s creative tentacles spread far beyond fashion into culture, and constantly adapted with the times.

What the exhibit does not do, purposely, is focus on Lagerfeld’s words — despite that quote on the doorway.

Many of Lagerfeld’s best-known quotes have shocked people over the years as he opined on subjects from #MeToo (skeptically), curvy bodies (dismissively), and political issues like immigration (offensively, to many). What was more interesting to Bolton, he says, was to focus on the work, and that was daunting enough. He examined 10,000 items before slowly winnowing the show down to about 200.

“He was Karl,” the curator said, noting that Lagerfeld himself referred to not always meaning what he said. “There could be 10, 20 different shows on Karl. To me, I thought the way to get to know him better, and understand his contradictions, was through his work.” And at the end of the day, he says, “That’s his legacy — the body of work you see here.”

Bolton’s shows, which have brought many thousands of visitors to the museum, have mostly centered on concepts and not individuals. But it’s hard not to sense that this show, dedicated to one man, is more personal for him, as he walks through the galleries and stops before a relatively simple tweed suit with a tight ribcage, narrow waist, and exaggerated hips that he calls his favorite item.

Each gallery combines contradictory moods: romantic and military, historical and futuristic, feminine and masculine, and floral and geometric. Filmy tulle coexists with shiny black plastic. It’s striking to think the same mind conjured up the pastel pink gown with cascading roses, and a jaunty design with huge block alphabet letters, which Lagerfeld loved because, Bolton says, “L comes after K in the alphabet. So, KL.”

One showstopping number is a glittery, golden embroidered dress, at its time said to be the most expensive ever made, Bolton said, because of its ingredients: literally, it’s spun with gold. In contrast, another item is simply “plastic on plastic.”

What stands out is the variety, making it impossible to describe one Lagerfeld style, even though his personal uniform became so recognizable that he called himself a caricature: the gray ponytail, the starchy white collars, the black fingerless gloves, leather pants, dark Chanel shades — a morphing of Mozart and maybe Keith Richards.

But that in itself, the show argues, is what defines the designer and explains his longevity: that he was always changing, in a determined — perhaps even obsessive — bid to stay relevant.

“He was a chameleon,” said Bolton, “able to change with the times so quickly. I think the reason he designed for so many years is that he wanted to remain relevant. Everything he did was about being in tune with the zeitgeist.”

A look at Met Gala's evolution
Fashion expert Madeline Hirsch discusses the evolution of Met Gala themes over the years, and muses on the 2023 event's focus on Karl Lagerfeld's legacy. (April 27)
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Lagerfeld was also a man with many interests: Literature, film, music — and business, too, making him an early example of designer-as-impresario. To illustrate this, Bolton has created an item sure to draw eyeballs: a faithful recreation of Lagerfeld’s chaotic desk.

It is piled with books, magazines favored sketching pencils from Caran D’Ache, and a glass of Diet Coke (actually resin, here).

“He drank it all day long,” Bolton said. “I never saw him without his glass of Coke.”

To create the tableau, Bolton spent three days in Paris photographing Lagerfeld’s library. Not wanting to disturb the actual collection, he sourced books from Amazon. The cultural artifacts range from highbrow to lowbrow.

“He wasn’t a snob,” Bolton says, then catching himself: “Well, he WAS a snob. But he was a democratic snob.”

There’s also a sketchpad: open, and blank: “We wanted it to look as if he was about to sketch.”

It was also sketching that provided the inspiration for the show. Bolton was at Lagerfeld’s memorial at the majestic Grand Palais in Paris — “much hoopla, as you can imagine” — and was touched by footage of the designer sketching, “lost in his imagination, oblivious to everybody.” He started dreaming up a show. (Lagerfeld was also a close friend of Anna Wintour, the influential Vogue editor who masterminds the gala and is one of this year’s hosts. Chanel is the show’s main sponsor.)

The exhibit centers first and foremost on the dichotomy of the curved “S” line (think romantic, decorative) and the straight line (modern, minimalist), with one curved wall and one straight wall in each gallery, and designs that express each aesthetic. Then, raised up in the center, there’s a garment called an “explosion” which combines both moods. So, for example, a traditional pastel-colored ballgown is topped with a black motorcycle jacket.

Speaking of jackets, there’s also a military-style women’s police jacket, designed by Lagerfeld as part of a competition run by the Rome police to dress its female officers.

And there’s a room full of iPhones — yes, iPhones — their screens capturing moments of what the exhibit calls “Karlisms.” It’s an illustration of the designer’s constant use, in later years, of his phone in his creative process — and of his huge collection of smartphones.

“I think he was ahead of the times, I really do,” said Bolton. “I think he saw where fashion was heading, as early as the 1950s. And fashion finally caught up with him.”

It's the first Monday of May, which means the annual Met Gala is here once again. Last year, the theme, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” was all about American fashion with gilded glamour as the dress code. This year's theme, “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” is an ode to the late designer known for his work at Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, and his own line Karl Lagerfeld. The dress code, then, is fitting: In honor of Karl. 

Last year, celebrities took the gilded glamour theme in many different directions, including tons of intricate headpieces, so it will be interesting to see how folks interpret tonight's theme. As always, we're rounding up our favorite beauty moments of the night, so make sure to check back here regularly as we continue to update the list. Now scroll and indulge in all of the eye-catching moments from the 2023 Met Gala. 

 La La Anthony 

la la anthony at the 2023 met gala with a high ponytail bangs and white headband
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An early arrival, La La Anthony, who is also hosting the live stream, showed up on the Met carpet looking like a glass of milk in a figure-hugging white gown with golden accessories, including a pair of pearl-studded, cat-eye shades. Her hair was swept up into a retro, high ponytail with curled ends and a sleek side bang. Her white headband was the perfect finishing touch. 

Penélope Cruz 

headshot of penelope cruz with a embellished veil at 2023 met gala
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Penélope Cruz stepped onto the Met carpet looking ready to say, “I do.” The actor stunned in a white ball gown with embellishments with a matching veil. Her hair was slicked back into a low updo with the veil covering half her head. 

Emma Chamberlain

close up of emma chamberlain with slicked back hair blue headband and blue smoky eye makeup
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Emma Chamberlain returned for another year as Vogue's special correspondent in a periwinkle ensemble with a matching plush headband. Her brown hair was parted down the middle and slicked back, flowing behind her. She paired her pastel outfit with blue smokey eye makeup and a nude peach lip. 

Quinta Brunson 

waist up photo quinta brunson at the 2023 met gala with a towering hat made of hair

The Abbott Elementary actor did not come to play with her first appearance at the Met Gala. Brunson looked gorgeous in the bedazzled gown with a lengthy train and mesh gloves, but her hair and hat were the real showstoppers.  It's hard to tell where her hair ended and the towering hat made of hair began. But you can spot the kinky texture of the hat. Her slicked and swooped baby hairs were as dramatic, if not more than the rest of her hair. 

Gabrielle Union 

gabrielle union in a red lather jacket with goddess braids and graphic black liner at the 2023 met gala
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Union was determined to look red hot on the Met carpet with her monochromatic look. She showed up with curly goddess box braids that cascaded past her waist. Her graphic eyeliner included a thick and sharp cat eye and a shorter line drawn from her inner corner to about a fourth of the way into her crease. The shorter line was also adorned with black glitter. 

Emily Ratajkowski

waist up photo of emily Ratajkowski with short bangs wavy hair and smoky eyes
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Emily Ratajkowski brought wispy bangs with loose waves to the event. The end of bangs ended about an inch above her arched eyebrows, but this fringe wasn't short enough to be considered baby bangs. Her smoked-out eye makeup and pink cheeks look gorgeous with a glossy pink lips. 

Anok Yai 

headshot of anok yai with brown mesh shades
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Anok Yai literally made our jaws drop in her sequined dress that looked like a chandelier. Her hair fell in loose waves with blunt baby bangs that were partially covered by her shades. The shades in question were a dark brown mesh pair that were the 

Quannah Chasinghorse 

waist up photo fo quannah chasinghorse in a pink dress with mermaid waves and a beaded feather hair accessory at the...
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Chasinghorse arrived looking pretty in pink in a tulle gown with cutouts. Her hair was parted on the side and fell in waves with two small braids that cascaded all the way to her hips. On the other side of her head, a section of hair was braided towards the back, and a beaded feather hair accessory was weaved into her hair right next to the plait. Her smoked-out eye makeup extended into sharp tips with pink pigments added to her lids. 

Jessica Chastain 

jessica chastain with platinum blonde hair and smoky eye makeup at the met gala 2023
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Chastain dropped jaws with her brand new bright butter-blonde hair styled in loose waves that touched her hips. It's clear the actor was emulating Lagerfeld with her blonde hair and a pair of black shades. Beneath those shades, she had smoky eye makeup with a grey shimmer on her lids. 


lizzo in a black gown with a messy curly top knot and straight bangs
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The “About Damn Time” singer looked like a beauty in a black gown with pearl accents. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a messy curly bun that towered above her. She took us back to the 2000s with her curls and blunt straight bangs that stopped at her mid-forehead. 

Ashley Graham 

ashley graham in a light pink dress with a flipped bob and an elaborate finger waves
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Ashley Graham took inspiration from the ‘20s and ’60s for her hair. Her flipped, shoulder-grazing bob was a clear ode to the retro 1960s, and her intricate finger waves are making us want to put on a flapper dress.

Amanda Seyfried

headshot of amanda seyfried with voluminous curls and red lip at 2023 met gala
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Amanda Seyfried clearly channeled the saying, “Go big or go home” with her voluminous curls surrounding her. Red pigments were blended on her lids and lower lash line for a little color. And what's better than a classic red lip? 

Doja Cat 

waist up photo of doja cat looking like a cat at the 2023 met gala
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If someone is going to come to the Met Gala looking like a cat, of course, it would be Doja. She looked absolutely stunning in her sequined white gown that flared out into a feather train. Her extravagant gown and cat nose surprisingly looked cohesive.  The dress also had a hood with cat ears to complete the look. 

FKA Twigs 

headshot of fka twigs with sculptural hair at the 2023 met gala
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FKA Twigs's hair was so elaborate that it almost feels insulting to just call it a hairstyle. Her hair was slicked back to her with pieces of hair that were looped around her head in an abstract pattern. 

Billie Eilish 

waist up photo of billie eilish with a long black braid at the 2023 met gala
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The “Happier Than Ever” singer was a gorgeous gothic queen for the night. Her black hair was parted down the middle and finessed into an intricate braid with satin fabric. It's impossible to tell where the braid ended because it practically blended into her dress. 

Adut Akech

adut akech with a super short bob and bangs and green lipstick at the 2023 met gala
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Adut Akech was giving Edna Mode a run for her money with this super short bob and baby bangs. She paired the edgy bob with a dark hunter-green matte lip. 

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