Close your eyes and just picture a dude. You’ll probably come up with a laid-back, slightly scruffy guy, perhaps Pete Davidson or Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski. Back in the 19th century, however, the term was a pejorative for a supremely foppish man. The definition may have changed over the past century and a half, but everyone can agree that “King of the Dudes” is still a pretty cool title. That laurel was given to the New York socialite Evander Berry Wall who in the 1880s outshone all the other well-dressed men in New York with his signature pointed collars, stockings, and silk hats. How delightful, then, that this bonafide eccentric served as the inspiration for Emma Corrin’s custom Met Gala ensemble by Miu Miu, with jewelry from Cartier. Both the 19th century dandy and The Crown actor have, to use a purely modern phrase, complete commitment to the bit.
A bit about Wall: The scion of a wealthy real estate family, he allegedly owned a suit for every day of the year and 500 pairs of trousers. When he wore “last year’s” clothes to a horse race in 1887, the New York Timesran the headline “Berry Wall’s Old Clothes Make a Sensation at the Races Yesterday.” (To be fair, the paper conceded that it was an otherwise boring day at the Brooklyn Jockey’s Club). During a blizzard in 1888, Wall won a “battle of dress” against the actor Bob Hilliard when he “strode into the Hoffman House bar clad in costly, gleaming boots of black patent leather that went all the way to his hips.” He won another sartorial bet when he changed clothes 40 times between breakfast and dinner.
According to an article published in 1885, “when Berry Wall appeared in a scarlet neck scarf, striped blue vest with brass buttons, a collar that raised his ears, a monocle, and patent leather shoes with yellow uppers, the front of the Brunswick at once blossomed with gilded youths similarly arrayed.” He moved from New York to Paris in 1912, and was a friend to the King of Sweden, Prince of Monaco, and the Aga Khan. His obituary repeated Wall’s claim that he had not drunk anything other than champagne in 60 years. “He just loved fashion,” Corrin’s stylist Harry Lambert tells Vogue over the phone.
Lambert and Corrin found photos of Wall while they were “looking for an angle” on the year’s dress code: gilded glamour, white tie. On that topic, Lambert is a purist. “I’m quite a strong believer that the Met Gala theme should be followed, and I thought it would be a fun opportunity to play with references,” he says. “As we got deeper into his story, it felt fun and a bit silly, but also quite chic.” The result was empowering to Corrin. “To me clothes are an armor and an ode to self expression,” they say. “To have been able to work closely with Harry Lambert, Miu Miu, and Cartier to create a look that visually encapsulates the journey I’m on, in such an iconic arena such as the Met Ball, is very empowering. The process has been such a pleasure and I feel totally heard, supported and confident wearing an outfit we’ve so thoughtfully put together, and feels so like me. Also a big thank you to the ‘King of Dudes’ for providing such epic inspiration.”
The most common image of Wall today shows him in a voluminous plaid short coat over black stockings and patent leather shoes, which was the jumping off point for Corrin’s Miu Miu look. Inside of the coat is a panel that reads “King of the Dudes,” and the outfit is accessorized with a top hat by Orlando Palacios of Worth and Worth and antique Cartier jewelry, white stockings, pointed shoes. Underneath the coat is a pair of “high waisted boxer shorts,” as Lambert describes them, and a waistcoat. The effect, without the context of the Met Gala or Wall, is quite modish—perfect for the Italian label. “When I saw reference pictures, it just felt like Miu Miu,” Lambert says.
The custom black top hat was “essential,” according to Lambert. It was a necessity to Wall as well. His obituary remembered that, “he never went to Longchamps in season without his silk hat, even if, as he complained, valets no longer knew how to ‘keep the gloss on your topper.’” As for Corrin, it’s unlikely that she’ll take to wearing the accessory quite as often. “It was a bit of fantasy that I thought would finish it off well,” Lambert says. “Emma likes to take risks, and there’s no better place for her to wear a top hat than at the Met Gala.” Under the topper was a sleek blonde bob colored by Rachel Bodt and styled by Dan Martin. Makeup artist Marcelo Gutierrez applied a fresh face of makeup, and Corrin was glowing ahead of the red carpet.
As the Times noted in a 1885 article about Wall, “of jewelry he was fond and his display was exquisite.” So Corrin’s had to be too. Her outfit is completed by a 1914 Cartier Paris pocket watch, a Cartier New York brooch from 1938, and earrings made in Cartier’s London workshop in 1934. All were sourced from the Cartier Collection, the house’s archive.
Gilded Age fashion is most remembered for its corseted dresses with elaborate detailing and sizable bustles. Fussiness is not Corrin’s M.O. This is an actor who wore a Miu Miu dress, gloves, and bonnet to the 2021 Emmys, an outfit they described as, “crucible realness.” The challenge was then to find an inspiration that was true to the theme, but also true to Corrin. “It felt fun to play with gender and do something unexpected,” Lambert says. “The womenswear was very ruffly with big dresses. There’s a lot of inspiration there, but there’s a fine line between it being great and not great. And like I said, the theme needs to be followed. It’s your one time to get away with being wild and having fun. I think it’s a missed opportunity when people play it safe.” Lord only knows what Wall would have worn to the Met Gala, had he been born a century later. But one thing’s for certain: his outfit would have been as unexpected as Corrin’s is.