What’s ‘Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty’ and why is it the 2023 Met Gala theme?

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The first Monday in May has arrived once again.

Fashion’s biggest night will take place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1 in New York City, and is set to be a chic affair paying tribute to late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.

With hosts Dua Lipa, Penélope Cruz, Roger Federer and Michaela Coel leading the way, Met Gala 2023 guests will celebrate Lagerfeld’s work for Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Balmain, Patou and his eponymous brand across his six-decade-long career.

The accompanying exhibition, titled “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” will feature 150 looks designed by Lagerfeld — paired with his corresponding sketches from before the clothing was stitched — curated by Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s Curator in Charge, as well as longtime Lagerfeld collaborator Amanda Harlech, who is serving as the exhibition’s creative consultant.

Below, a handy explainer on the theme ahead of the year’s biggest red carpet.

What is the theme?

Mirroring the title of the upcoming Costume Institute exhibition, this year’s theme is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” with the latter phrase referencing the talented artist’s incredible line drawings.

While Lagerfeld has long been synonymous with Chanel, the fashion house that featured as the Met Gala’s theme in 2005, this year will celebrate the iconoclast’s work from throughout his distinguished career, which included stints at multiple other labels.

What is the dress code?

While past Met Gala exhibits have included fairly obscure dress code guidelines, this year, guests are expected to dress simply “in honor of Karl.”

Plenty of stars have worn Chanel to balls past — including Vogue head honcho Anna Wintour, who almost always wears close friend Lagerfeld’s designs — but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will be sporting the French brand’s double Cs.

We might see attendees honoring the German superstar by dressing in his likeness; Lagerfeld was famous for his black-and-white wardrobe, smart ties and sleek powdered ponytail.

And while stars could pull any of the thousands of pieces the designer had a hand in creating for various houses, it’s worth noting that Chanel is the main sponsor of the evening, with additional support given by Fendi.

As such, it’s likely many will choose to wear the labels with which Lagerfeld inked lifetime contracts in 1983 and 1965, respectively.

Why is Karl Lagerfeld being honored?

When the famed designer died in 2019 at the age of 85 following a battle with pancreatic cancer, the fashion world lost one of its most revered figures.

The New York Times called him the “most prolific designer of the 20th and 21st centuries,” and indeed, the photographer and artist designed an astounding average of 14 new collections a year in his heyday.

He was known for taking fledging legacy brands, including Fendi and Chanel, and transforming them into hip must-have labels that hosting spectacular seasonal shows; Chanel’s carousel-, rocket ship- and supermarket-inspired runways, always staged at the Grand Palais in Paris, are a few of the most memorable.

Lagerfeld was also extremely close friends with Wintour, who has served as the chair of the Met ball since 1995.

“More than anyone I know, he represents the soul of fashion: restless, forward-looking and voraciously attentive to our changing culture,” Wintour said of Lagerfeld when presenting him with the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards in 2015.

He was a beloved — though controversial — figure, close with countless celebrities including Cruz, Kristen Stewart, Cara Delevingne, Pharrell, Naomi Campbell and many more.

Last week, Wintour gushed over her relationship with Lagerfeld in the New York Times, saying, “Our friendship meant everything to me, and I miss him deeply. I am grateful for all the moments, such as this one, that can bring his work to life and, in the process, keep him near.”

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Who determines the dress code?

Wintour, along with Bolton, choose the exhibit theme and the pieces displayed each year, and are bringing in Harlech to assist this time around.

Ultimately, however, everything about the charity event is left to the British boss’ discretion — including the guest list, decorations, and even what attendees wear.

What can we expect on the red carpet?

Considering the length and breadth of Lagerfeld’s career, the options are endless for those able to get their hands on one of his archival creations.

Others attending with brands besides Chanel or Fendi might do well to embrace bouclé, camellia flowers, tailored suits and fur, which were among Lagerfeld’s signature elements.

Kim Kardashian will almost certainly wear something from one of Lagerfeld’s collections, as she posted from his Parisian studios — even posing with his beloved cat, Choupette — days before the event.

Paris Hilton is expected to attend the event for the first time ever this year; the reality star shares a love of fingerless gloves with the late Lagerfeld, so expect the “Stars are Blind” singer to accessorize accordingly.

At least one guest should wear a crisp white Hilditch & Key shirt, of which Lagerfeld had thousands and wore daily.

What were past themes?

The Met Gala has honored a number of designers in the past, beginning with Yves Saint Laurent in 1983. Since Wintour took over as chair of the event, there have been balls celebrating Christian Dior (1996), Gianni Versace (1997), Paul Poiret (2007), Alexander McQueen (2011), Charles James (2014) and Rei Kawakubo (2017). Additionally, both Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada were honored in 2012.

Other past notable themes include 2021 and 2022’s dual tribute to American history, 2019’s “Notes on Camp” and 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass.”

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