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Walking Tall

Models Have Their Moment at the Met Ball

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Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake   
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Entering the Metropolitan Museum for tonight's Costume Institute Gala, guests were greeted by a six-foot mannequin, perched atop an urn and ringed with hundreds of white roses. A creation of honorary chair Marc Jacobs, the svelte totem was draped in fabric and crowned with an enormous wig designed by French hairstylist Julien d'Ys. The message was clear: "All hail the supermodel!"

Where 2008's Superheroes exhibit paid tribute to Catwoman and co., this year's edition, titled The Model as Muse, puts fashion's real-life heroines on a pedestal. And back on the triple-wide red carpet, there was plenty of "all hail"-ing going on, as a multigenerational who's who of cover girls—everyone from Lauren Hutton to Gisele to Jessica Stam—trotted by. After Heidi Klum was grazed by a few sprinkles of rain, half a dozen suited men immediately started fussing over her gown—among them its creator, Gilles Mendel. And no sooner had Karolina Kurkova's Richard Chai bracelet snapped off than the designer swooped in and snapped it back on. Even the Hollywood stars—those magazine-cover usurpers—were obliged to pay homage. "I'm completely crazy about Kate Moss," gushed Eva Mendes. Moss, of course, was one of the evening's co-chairs, along with Jacobs, Vogue's Anna Wintour, and Justin Timberlake.

Dolling up for New York's fashion event of the year is never easy; this time there was the added pressure of knowing that all those natural-born clotheshorses would be in attendance. Donatella Versace claimed it had taken "forever" to get ready, but two hours seemed to be the norm. What was a slog for Kate Beckinsale ("I can't work up any interest in fingernails, I just can't") was a piece of cake for Renée Zellweger. ("We all get together and turn on the news, scream at the TV—and when it's time to go, we put the dress on," she shrugged.) Jessica Alba got her hair done with her 11-month-old on her lap. "She was chewing on the bristles of the brush. I was like, 'There's hair spray on that!'"

Despite the evening's theme, a couple of ladies learned a bit about how the gents dress. Diane Kruger came to the aid of her beau, Joshua Jackson: "I tied his bow tie, and it's quite difficult. I had to look it up on YouTube!" And Lake Bell fearlessly strode up the steps in a Rag & Bone tuxedo. "That inside pocket, that is genius," she marveled. (She was using it to hold double-sided tape for her heels.) Turning to Maryna Linchuk, she added that going as a guy had another perk: "I get to have a supermodel date."

After dinner, Stefan Marais broke the gender barrier in a different way, doing touch-ups in the ladies bathroom for model pals Coco Rocha, Natalia Vodianova, and Stam. On the mic, Kanye West gave shout-outs to Alexander Wang and Alber Elbaz before rapping, "Some people made it to this room because they had rich parents, some people made it to this room because they paid their dues." Of course, it also never hurts to be born beautiful.

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