For Camila Mendes, working with designer Alexandre Mattiussi on her AMI gown for this year’s gala meant starting with a color. Given the evening’s Gilded Age theme, that could only mean one thing. “Gold everything,” she laughs. Of course, not just any ol’ period-inspired gold frock would do, but only the most iconic. “It’s inspired by an electric-light dress that Alice Vanderbilt wore to a big costume ball the Vanderbilts threw in the late 1800s.” The pageantry of that ode to Thomas Edison’s recently-invented light bulb spoke to her own penchant for dramatic costume: “I really do feel like with each dress that I wear, there’s always some character I get to play for the night.”
In fact, when Mattiussi sent her his initial sketch for the dress, the historic Vanderbilt gown immediately sprung to Mendes’s mind. She thought, “We can turn this into an electric-light moment. That’s the inspiration, let’s go for it.” Within a few weeks, Mattiussi and the team at AMI had her perfect dress finished. Replete with multiple textures and fabrics, techniques, and appliqués—all of them rendered in gold—the dress shines like few others (though, as Mendes jokes, it’s not actually electrified like the original Vanderbilt).
The pastiche approach taken by AMI is of course not only true to the Vanderbilt inspiration, but, as Mendes points out, also representative of so many of the incredible fashions from the Gilded Age. “You’ve got the gold sequins and the texture of that. The texture of the beads and the movement of the beads,” she fawns, her matching gold makeup all a sparkle. And that movement is important not just for the look, she adds, but because, “I want to be able to dance and have fun.”