ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: The Met Ball ostentatious?

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: The Met Ball ostentatious? Well, that’s the point of it!

The annual Met Ball extravaganza, themed this year as Gilded Glamour, drew criticism from those who thought it hugely inappropriate to hold a cavalierly ostentatious celebration of wealth while Ukraine is being battered by Putin’s army, the cost of living rockets and we face a global fuel crisis. Others, though, pored over the pictures from the ball and found the shenanigans a welcome – and harmless – diversion in these grim times.

The theme referred to the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th Century when America’s old social order – families who could trace their lineage back to the Pilgrims on the Mayflower’s voyage from England to the New World in 1620 – had their noses whacked out of joint by the nouveaux riches, who rode into town and pretty much bought the city of New York.

The newcomers had made their fortunes quickly on the expanding railways and other industrial advances. And, as anyone who watched parvenue hostess Bertha Russell’s social climbing in Julian Fellowes’s recent TV series The Gilded Age will know, too much was never enough.

The annual Met Ball extravaganza, themed this year as Gilded Glamour, drew criticism from those who thought it hugely inappropriate to hold a cavalierly ostentatious celebration of wealth while Ukraine is being battered by Putin’s army

Bigger has always been better across the pond. So it was a particularly appropriate theme for this year’s ball because it kicks off a blockbuster exhibition about American fashion.

While we Brits, in our hidebound manner, still have a sneaking fear of people thinking we’re show-offs, the US remains a land where showing off is the point. Nobody succeeds in the States without displaying all they have. Nobody downplays the size, let alone number, of their homes, nor what they earn, nor their private jets. And as the shenanigans around the multi-million-dollar Nicole Peltz and Brooklyn Beckham wedding showed, the more-is-more attitude is alive and kicking.

The Met gala is a fundraiser for New York’s Costume Institute. It plays on the fact that spending a huge amount on a table is desirable because it shows you can afford it. That’s a constituent of philanthropy. The dressing up is the decorative side of the business.

Whether or not guests turn up in crazy clothes has no bearing at all on the wider world’s problems. And really, the folderol of the Met Ball is just another costume drama. No more harmful or helpful than the new Downton film or Bridgerton – and a great deal more fun to sit on the sidelines and snipe at.

Cara Delevingne attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute benefit gala

My big dilemma: do pegs go on the legs?

Switching from one end of the fashion spectrum to another, can we talk about clothes pegs? This might seem trivial, but I am not the only one eager to get the laundry on the washing line rather than in the tumble dryer.

Washing lines are hardly the most glamorous subject, but I love mine. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a row of white sheets blowing in the wind. The pegs though? That’s where I get stuck. It seems right to avoid plastic. But how do you prevent wooden ones getting mouldy and staining the whites?

Indeed, the whole operation is a bundle of uncertainty. What is the most effective way to hang trousers – from the waistband or legs? Should you use hangers for shirts? And socks? One peg or two? These things matter.

Are we too woke to like Victoria sponge?

What fun to be a judge for the Queen’s Platinum Pudding Competition! I would have strong opinions. Foremost would be that puddings must be deliciously indulgent and calorie-laden. The clue is in the word, which sounds weighty and grounded, unlike dessert, which has a lighter, less substantial feel.

Puddings should be wonderfully unhealthy and spoiling – sponges, trifles, suets and pies do the trick. Mousses, sorbets – certainly not.

What fun to be a judge for the Queen’s Platinum Pudding Competition! I would have strong opinions (stock image)

My vote would go to lawyer Sam Smith’s splendid Jubilee Bundt cake, an ornate crown-shaped Victoria sponge (a nod to Her Majesty’s great-great-grandmother) filled with Dubonnet jam (a nod to the Queen Mother’s tipple).

I’m prepared to lay good money that it’s far too old school to win in these peculiarly guilt-ridden times when it’s become taboo to celebrate anything about Britain’s past.

The must-buy that’s already a has-been

I’ve held back from buying a necklace I have been eyeing for weeks.

Luckily, help has arrived in the form of seeing it recommended as this season’s must-buy. There’s no better way to put an item out of your mind than seeing it touted as an objet du jour – stamping it as an incipient has-been that will soon be worn by far too many others.

Green really isn’t fashion’s colour

The fashion industry clearly hasn’t got the carbon footprint message. Last week Chanel showed its Cruise collection in Monte Carlo, the previous week Pucci commandeered Capri in the Bay of Naples and next month Dior will be flying the fashion world out to Seville.

Years ago, I was frequently asked if the tradition of hosting huge, expensive fashion shows was likely to continue, and I always said it was unlikely. It was costly, environmentally unsound and illogical.

Clearly I was wrong. Even a global pandemic hasn’t made fashion change its polka dots.

So here goes… didn’t Sir Keir Starmer’s wife Victoria, pictured above, look great when she went out to vote last week? Skinny button-down jeans, flaming red blouse, oversize sunnies – casual but not without flair

One Starmer who looks like a winner

It’s now thought deeply offensive to comment on a woman’s appearance, but I think most of us don’t mind terribly if it’s a compliment.

So here goes… didn’t Sir Keir Starmer’s wife Victoria, pictured above, look great when she went out to vote last week? Skinny button-down jeans, flaming red blouse, oversize sunnies – casual but not without flair.

Kudos, I say. Boris made do with a dashing pink lead on Dilyn the dog.

There’s nothing like a dreamy nightdress

I was sent a beautiful white cotton nightdress last week from a collaboration between my old Vogue colleague Ginnie Chadwyck- Healey and If Only If nightwear.

It reminded me how underrated nighties are. We’ve all fallen for flopping around in pyjamas. Nightdresses have fallen out of favour and deserve reclamation. They’re much more comfortable – and simply perfect for holiday breakfasts.

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