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The Met Gala before it became the #MetGala

How posh was Posh? Our International Editor’s personal musings on Victoria Beckham, Nicole Kidman and more at the Met Gala in the years before it turned into the Super Bowl of Fashion (at $30,000 a ticket).
The rumor was that Posh would be there. Did that mean David would be too? It was 2003 and my David Beckham obsession was in full bloom. His first book, Beckham: My World, had been released just two years prior and could only be found gracing the coffee tables of the most in-the-know Anglophiles in New York: gay men like myself working in the fashion industry. 
Foto: Getty Images/Dimitrios Kambouris
Sadly, David was a no-show that year but Posh arrived in all her glossy lion-maned glory. Her date for the night was Naomi Campbell. This was shocking because the two had been publicly feuding in the press. Upon introduction at a fashion party in Milan in 2000, Naomi snickered: “So why exactly do they call you Posh?” To which, Victoria quickly retorted: “So why exactly do they call you beautiful?” Here they were, though, not only together, but hand in hand on the bare stone steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (there was no red – or any other color – carpet back then).
Posh and Naomi were both guests at Dolce & Gabbana’s table, which wasn’t that far from my own. But it was my boyfriend who actually dragged me over to meet her as I was too shy to muster up the courage myself. The meeting was very brief and she was very polite. She playfully rolled her eyes when I told her that I loved following her escapades in the British press – namely through, OK! Magazine, my weekly fix –  and smiled when I expressed my affection for David. Then, in a flash, one of the handlers from the Dolce & Gabanna entourage whisked her off into the shadows of the museum, leaving us in the wake of her major WAG-era beaded chiffon mini dress and white strappy stilettos. Can you imagine Victoria Beckham, the modern icon of chic, wearing anything remotely like that today?
Foto: Getty Images/Mark Mainz
My interaction with Nicole Kidman was a slightly more engaging. Nicole, along with Tom Ford, was a co-chair for the “Goddess: The Classical Mode” gala that year. Draped in a Tom Ford for Gucci (remember this was 2003) column gown, the statuesque Nicole could not have been nicer. This time I was prepared. The boyfriend that I mentioned before? He was a senior executive at New Line Cinema and had just visited Nicole on set of the ill-fated thriller Birth the day before. The two of them had bonded over their Aussie roots and the fact that my boyfriend’s sister had attended Monte Sant’Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney within a year of Nicole’s sister. Going through the receiving line alone since my boyfriend was running late, I mentioned him to Nicole, of course. And, being the Oscar-winning actress that she is, she made me believe that she remembered it all.
Foto: Getty Images/Mark Mainz
Nicole wasn’t the only one embracing her inner “Goddess” for the evening – Gisele Bündchen, Iman and Kate Hudson (in Stella McCartney) also chose variations of the theme, mostly in white, for their gowns. Diana Ross, the entertainer for the evening, went with the opposite end of the spectrum as she belted out her greatest hits in a flowing bright red satin Gucci creation which perfectly matched her lipstick. But Kirsten Dunst was hands-down my favorite, pairing her simple black strapless cocktail dress with a Tiffany-blue handknit beret and a 23-year old Jake Gyllenhaal on her arm.
Foto: Getty Images/Peter Kramer
The following year, the Met Gala was themed “Dangerous Liasions” and it was pouring cats and dogs that night. There was still no red carpet on the stone steps of the museum and the train of Renée Zellweger’s golden Carolina Herrera gown was still a bit damp when we chatted in the receiving line. I was running the New York public relations office for Gap,a major U.S. brand and a major advertiser and supporter of Vogue. This is why I was able to attend the Met Gala for two years in a row. Upon hearing my affiliation, Renee giddily confessed to being a fan of Gap Body, Gap’s lingerie division. Not being a fan of Renee’s myself previously, I was quickly converted. She was absolutely charming. And when I quickly sent her an extremely large package of Gap Body products the next day, the handwritten note she posted in return solidified my enchantment. And I can’t wait to see her any day now in the new Netflix series What/If.
Also on the receiving line, as she is every year, was Anna Wintour. When I apologized for the bad weather (like I had anything to do with it – but what do you say to Anna Wintour?), she coolly replied, in her perfect British accent, that she felt it made the evening “more dangerous”- a phrase she was surely using on everyone.
Foto: Getty Images/Evan Agostini
Wandering through the displays of eighteenth-century costumes and furniture in the Met’s spectacular French period rooms, Scarlett Johansson glowed in her Calvin Klein bright yellow satin gown alongside Natalie Portman in a daringly bare look from Stella McCartney. Supermodel Amber Valetta was the only one of the evening to go full-on Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close’s character in the film Dangerous Liaisons) in a powdered wig, corset and John Galliano skirt. While her fellow supermodel Carolyn Murphy went full-on sexy in white satin Gucci with a plunging neckline. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ask any of them for a selfie as the first iPhone wouldn’t be invented for another three years. 
Emma Hill was my date for the night. Emma was Gap’s super-talented accessories maven at the time, coming to the brand hot from Marc Jacobs. Remember Marc’s “It Bags” of the early 2000’s? That was all Emma. We had a wonderful time watching Hugh Jackman perform in the expertly decorated Charles Englehard Court in the museum’s American Wing as we entertained the eccentric editors that were the fellow guests at our table (one of which, a well-respected newspaper journalist that shall remain unnamed, decided to wear her napkin on her shoulders to ward off a draft).
You won’t find me declaring the Met Gala “unfun” like Gwyneth Paltrow famously quipped in 2013 but it was a very different affair in the early aughts. You could see where it was heading – but, at the time, it was very much a fashion industry event where you partied with your friends and colleagues and casually rubbed shoulders with celebrities that were there for the same reason as you – a love for fashion.