Black Tie Fashion Takes a New Turn at LACMA's Art + Film Gala

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Dakota Johnson

The Gucci sponsored gala featured an assortment of looks, including a newly embellished style gown that's a patchwork of flamboyant fabrics and colors.

LACMA's Art & Film Gala on Saturday night is always one of the most truly fashionable annual events in L.A., but flies a little more under the radar than the Oscars or the Globes on the fashion radar. Let's just say the world press isn't invited to cover. This is a super exclusive evening, sponsored by Gucci, and this year's event honored Martin Scorsese and David Hockney, was co-chaired by Leonardo DiCaprio and Eva Chow, and saw entertainment from Dhani Harrison (son of George) and Sting.

Too bad. We hope the rest of the world will get a load of these looks. For fashion journalists, the excitement of the evening is all in the outfits. It's an amazing spectrum of black tie red carpet creations from fall 2013, resort 2014 and even spring 2014 collections -- and not only predicts awards season trends but makes them.

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"This is like the New Year's Eve of Los Angeles in terms of fashion," said Katherine Ross, now a fashion consultant to LACMA and wife of LACMA director Michael Govan. "This is where the truly great and original looks come out." Hers was no exception: a gold/gunmetal lame' wrap kimono gown with a matching obi sash and kimono sleeves, from Gucci's resort 2014 collection. "You would not believe how comfortable this is," she laughed. "You just wrap it up and go. It takes one minute to get dressed. And it feels amazing." Now, by the looks of (exotic) things, this is going to be one colorful awards season.

While the spring 2014 collections in New York and Europe featured an array of what resembled art project gowns and dresses: a melange of mesh, fishnet, metallic, sequins and feathers -- with illusion placketts and panels in the necks, arms, sides and legs of gowns -- Gucci got on the early bandwagon of this trend for fall 2013, leaving the other houses to follow.

The Gucci fall looks we saw that dressed to impress were a veritable patchwork of fishnet, mesh, metallic lame' greens and blacks with satin fabrics and feather touches, all in different combinations and silhouettes, on the likes of Dakota Johnson and Amber Valetta (the one on Zoe Saldana is actually spring 2014)-- whose gown was actually a jumpsuit, and might have been the most flamboyant of the night. Sure, the pregnant Olivia Wilde and the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood looked simple and chic in their black Gucci gowns -- as did Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini -- but these newfangled patchwork gowns (which have an almost encrusted look) have both an artisinal and flamboyant feel. They seemed to lay waste with the idea of simple and understated, at least at this event. All eyes were on those feathers, crystals, shiny fabrics -- and the fleshy parts covered semi-discreetly with mess and chiffon and lace. They're both super textured and a bit naked at the same time. This is the new direction fashion is heading in, as fabric design goes futuristic and flamboyant -- and fun.

Kate Beckinsale and Amy Adams, both in Gucci, eschewed the fall gowns for metallic dresses in eye-catching but subtle hues: Kate in a long seafoam lame slim fitting gown, and Amy in a pink/rust colored metallic lame' strapless sheath. "I'd love to be able to carry off that jumpsuit that Amber Valetta's wearing," sighed Adams. "But you really have to be tall to wear those embellished pieces. I'm small, so I keep it more simple. Gucci always knows what to send me, and I love the color of the dress I'm wearing." Her waved shorter hair almost matched the sienna tone of the dress. There is something about adding metallic sparkle and sheen to a soft color like rose or green: they suddenly become three dimensional.

Gucci made co-chair Eva Chow's slim cut sparkly black gown with long sleeves and trumpet skirt shape for her for the evening. "Believe it or not," she laughed, "I really wanted to keep it simple. This is Frida's idea of simple -- and it's mine too!"

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Salma Hayek Pinault stunned, as usual, in a Gucci original: the much-touted cream color of the moment in a halter chiffon gown that was belted, and who's bodice was sprinkled with shiny beads. Against her dark hair and flashing eyes, it was a real eye-pupil-catcher. Kate Hudson also went with a pale tone: a pale pale peach -- almost blush -- halter gown with silver details, with no back and a slim cut, and very understated makeup. Once again, she knows that accentuating her body and skin is always a winner for her. "I guess I have been wearing a lot of very light things," she acknowledged. "I like the light they reflect and it's almost like pale is the new black tie neutral. It always works in L.A., no matter what the season."

Of course, there were a few non-Gucci wearers in the crowd. Drew Barrymore donned a white caftan with a multi-color print on it. Sure, volume is back -- Jenni Kayne's polka dot flowing high low gown of her own design proved that -- but the muu-muu isn't back yet, that we know of. The new gowns with volume are always close to the body in one area or another -- bodice, hips, sleeves -- but Drew went truly undercover.

China Chow also went with the multi-fabric multi-color trend of the evening: green, black and white, in a strapless full-skirted saucy cocktail dress with a giant white satin bow, a lacy skirt and shiny sequins in a multi-fabric pastiche. "It's Proenza," she whispered as to not offend any Gucci folk. "Don't tell anyone. It goes with the night, don't you think? It's art, it's fashion, and it's really unique."