Why I'm Wearing My Chanel Wedding Dress to the Karl Lagerfeld Met Gala

jill kargman
Jill Kargman: From My Wedding to the Met GalaHearst Owned

My favorite piece of clothing is my wedding dress, and I’ve only worn it once. I’ve had dumb fantasies of throwing a black and white ball or contriving some reason to wear it as a costume, but 21 years and no such luck. I even flirted with pulling a Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink and Frankensteining it into something shorter or more wearable, but my daughters basically morphed into Edvard Munch’s The Scream when I so much as mused about the possibility.

Of course, when I thought about it, I knew deep down I could never do that, especially after Karl Lagerfeld died. My gown was a gift from him while my dad worked at Chanel, and his beautiful sketch is framed on my wall. I look at it all the time and feel so lucky to have this gown, even though I never had that “Say Yes To The Dress” eureka moment standing on a box and trying different options. This was like an arranged dress-marriage, but it was love at first sight.

jill kargman
Karl Lagerfeld’s sketch for the writer Jill KargmanJill Kargman

Then, when I read Lagerfeld was the theme for this year's Costume Institute gala at the Metropolitan Museum, I knew immediately what I was going to wear to the party of the year. My brother Will so kindly went to my parents’ scary moldy basement and unearthed the literal wooden Chanel couture coffin that held it for over two decades (not all heroes wear capes—that place is Studio54 for dust mites) and I carried her home like a ghost out of a Tim Burton movie. Now at 48, I can’t exactly crack out my camellia-covered veil and rock the full bridal lewq. But! With some accessory zhuzhing, it’s modern and more me than ever. A bib of black bows covers the once-plunging younger woman’s neckline, with a signature camellia at my neck.

<span class="caption">The late Karl Lagerfeld at the Met Gala in 2008.</span><span class="photo-credit">Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images</span>
The late Karl Lagerfeld at the Met Gala in 2008.Dimitrios Kambouris - Getty Images

I tried it on with the fear of handling a relic, and with the trepidation of a middle-aged woman stepping into her past. My body had been through several wars (the birth of my three kids, a double-mastectomy, and menopause) which had redistributed some of the curves and sags. I wondered if it would be almost sad to try and get away with what I wore walking down the aisle with a bridal flush of nerves and my life ahead of me. It wasn't.

White may be all purity and new beginnings, but you don’t have to be young to relish new chapters! My husband Harry zipped it up and I instantly felt as good as I did in 2002. Actually, I felt even better. That's because being young meant uncertainty about the future. With age came our Karglings, adventure, and experience. Even if I could jump in a DeLorean Time Machine with Doc Brown at the wheel, I wouldn’t go back two decades. But for one night, I will.

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