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The Red, White, and Blue Carpet

The Met's American Woman Gala Lures the Glitterati Out En Masse

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Zoe Saldana, Francisco Costa, and Diane Kruger   
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The Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute benefit was all about stateside roots this year, celebrating as it did the opening of American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity. Proceedings inside had a turn-of-the-century feel, with wicker chairs at the dinner tables and a hot-air balloon inspired by one from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair looming over the Great Hall.

Appropriately, the first guest off the starting line was NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. He was followed by co-chair Anna Wintour, who arrived in a gown designed for her by Karl Lagerfeld. "He's the master, so whatever he says, I obey," the Vogue editor in chief said. Influential types have also been known to have that kind of relationship with Oprah Winfrey, who came in soon after Wintour and issued a gentle commandment of her own: "I want everybody to not just look at the glamour of this evening, but to actually come to the exhibit."

America's favorite TV host had done the glamour part too, of course—with help from Oscar de la Renta. As her friend Gayle King noted, this was one night where "the last person she needs fashion advice from is me." With Gap's Patrick Robinson serving as Winfrey's fellow co-chair, the fashion world's biggest party (following 2008 and 2009 editions celebrating superheroes and supermodels) seemed to be making a symbolic nod toward Main Street.

Needless to say, Joe and Jane Six-Pack weren't ascending the red-carpeted steps, which soon became the sort of scene your Kristen Bells and Chloë Sevignys could slip through almost completely unnoticed as the likes of Bono, Jennifer Lopez, and Kristen Stewart soaked up the spotlight.

Compared to a high-pressure entrance like this one, the Oscars are "a nice get-together," Zoe Saldana observed. Catwalker Maryna Linchuk found herself having to adapt, too. "It's really different, because they're really into celebrities," she noted. (Her date, Derek Lam, assured us that he'll be giving Linchuk plenty of love in his Fall ad campaign.)

Naturally, stars waltz into a party like this one with different ideas on how to dress for it. Eva Longoria Parker's rule of thumb? "When you can't breathe, that means it’s a good fit!" Alexa Chung, meanwhile, sprang up the stairs in a comfy-looking tuxedo from 3.1 Phillip Lim.

As usual for the Met ball, there were plenty of such felicitous pairings. According to Pucci's Peter Dundas, outfitting sample-size Sienna Miller (who walked in hand in hand with Jude Law) was a snap. Jason Wu and Camilla Belle "did it through e-mail," the designer giggled. "We've been on many, many dates," Emma Watson said of her escort, Burberry's Christopher Bailey, while Liv Tyler joked that Stella McCartney (who also dressed Kate Hudson for the gala) takes care of her girlfriends' looks first and "always leaves hers to the last second." Brooke Shields positively squealed with delight when Michael Kors stooped down to adjust her train, which wasn't quite as epic as the roadblock-creating one Zac Posen had attached to Doutzen Kroes.

Ralph Lauren arrived in beaten-up blue jeans, having assembled what was arguably the evening's most all-American table. It included two of his own offspring (David and Dylan), Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel, Taylor Swift, and Lauren Bush, who figured her dinner plans would involve "schmoozing about scoring some tickets to a concert" with the country-pop crossover sensation. And who did Tom Ford, in his pink jacket, plan to rub elbows with between cocktail hour and Lady Gaga's gala-capping performance? "Just some good friends," he said.

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