What to Wear to the Ball: Dr. Samantha Boardman on Theme Dressing

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by Jenni Avins on May 2, 2013

You may have heard that there’s a little party coming up next week. It’s called the Met Gala. Anna Wintour will be hosting with Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci; single-named super-celebrities will be in attendance; and this year’s theme will be “Punk: Chaos to Couture.” There’s been a fair amount of hand-wringing over how anti-punk it is to have a punk theme party that costs thousands of dollars to attend, but (of course) I think the more interesting hand-wringing is over people are going to wear.

I talked to several attendees about this a few weeks ago, for a little piece to accompany Nitsuh Abebe’s “What is Punk?” feature in New York magazine. These women – people like Dr. Lisa Airan and Lizzie Tisch – are not celebrities who cause red carpet traffic jams, but rather New Yorkers of a certain social strata we expect to see at events like these. When I approached them weeks ago about what they would wear, I sort of expected them to play it cool, and pretend they hadn’t thought about it yet. I was pleasantly surprised by their refreshing honesty, and complete lack of blasé snobbery.

“I’m really stressed out about it!” blurted Lisa Airan, when I only asked whether she was going. “It’s four weeks from last Monday!” (Now it’s nearly four days from today. Eek!) One of the options Dr. Airan and I discussed was the very dress that the New York Times pictured next to their story on the subject today. She thought a friend may have something similar for her, but she hadn’t seen it yet. She also pointed out the shortage of vintage Vivienne Westwood, since the stuff wasn’t exactly produced en masse.

(A 1988 Westwood corset dress, however post-punk, that I would love to wear on Monday.)

Lizzie Tisch told me she was going “pretty punk” in a chain mail dress (that she must blow-dry to warm up) that’s admittedly more mod, given its shift shape, but whatever. She also said she may utilize her long-ignored double-pierced ear. What may have been my favorite response came from Dr. Samantha Boardman, who emailed me a sketch of the Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda couture gown the designers had in the works for her. I think a fairy got its wings when I opened this attachment:

“I’ve got this beautiful floral dress that maybe superficially looks anti-punk in some way,” said Dr. Boardman, sounding appropriately excited about this gown being made just for her. “But it’s handmade. And in a way there’s something sort of do-it-yourself in it, and self-expression in it, that I think is just conceptually punk.” I love that interpretation – and that dress – and thought Dr. Boardman had great advice for anyone struggling to balance their own style and an event’s theme: “It’s kind of like reading a book,” she said. “[Your interpretation] depends on where you are in that moment.” So basically, just don’t sweat it, and let it speak to you. That’s kind of punk in itself.

Find equally cogent insights for the fashionably inclined at Dr. Boardman’s blog: Positive Prescription.

P.S. Yes, I’ll be on the carpet reporting. No, I don’t know what I’m wearing yet. Maybe white lace Suno and black Supergas. Maybe not!


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