On Monday night, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's famed staircase turned into one of the world's longest runways as catwalkers past, present, and future, strutted into the Costume Institute to celebrate "The Model as Muse" exhibition. "I love the theme!" said Lanvin's Alber Elbaz enthusiastically upon reaching the top of the steps. "It's a very important dialog between a designer and model. More than anything it's an exchange of personality and energy and I love doing that."

And he wasn't the only one feeling the love. The evening, which was sponsored by Marc Jacobs and chaired by the man himself, attracted generations of mannequins. Carmen Dell'Orefice represented the '50s, Twiggy the swinging '60s, and Lauren Hutton the divalicious '70s. For the pivotal 80s era Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer were the sole supes since Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista opted out at the last minute due to a kerfuffle between the museum and Azzedine Alaia. (Christy Turlington was never planning on attending.)

The grunge-filled 90s paid homage to the muse of all muses Kate Moss, and the evening's co-host made up for her colleagues' absences by wowing in a short gold lamé mini dress created specifically for her by Jacobs. As for the naughties? Gisele Bundchen, Natalia Vodianova, and Agyness Deyn had it covered.

Where there's smoke there's fire, and celebs turned up in their own interpretations of fashionable (read: model-like) attire. Madonna, Leighton Meester, and Molly Sims resembled court jesters in poufy get-ups with Madge taking the cake by accessorizing her Louis Vuitton confection with a jolly teal headdress. Kates Bosworth and Hudson looked glamorous in Stella McCartney, as did Liv Tyler, who wore one of the evening's most favored colors, a cool blue.

Meanwhile Anne Hathaway channeled Margo Thomas in Marc Jacobs, and Eva Mendes went for model chic in a nude-colored column by Calvin Klein Collection. "The world right now is not quite the happiest place and if I can get dressed up and bring some smiles to people's faces, then fantastic," the actress told reporters matter-of-factly. "I just want people at home to know I have to give all of this back. We're all feeling the recession."

During the red carpet crawl, most models were happy to discuss their most embarrassing shoots rather than the worrisome economy. "[Photographer] Steven Meisel shot me like a boy once," recalled stunner Maryna Linchuk in a Rag & Bone dress that she co-designed. "They put me in a beard and men's clothes. Then I had to dance a strip tease and become a woman. It was the weirdest thing I've ever done."

Nearby a Phi-clad Erin Wasson one-upped her: "I did a flying story once and was in a harness for 14-hours a day, suspended up in the air. It wasn't exactly comfortable. There are moments when people just don't know what goes on behind the scenes. It's like 'Listen dude, if you only knew what it took to get that shot!' But the whole point is smoke and mirrors, right?"

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.