Katy Perry met costume institute gala

Katy Perry dresses in lights. Photo: Getty Images

Oprah Winfrey was the woman of the evening.

If guests weren't dying to meet the multi-media mogul at the Costume Institute Gala on Monday evening at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, they were gushing about her.

"American fashion is modernity and simplicity and represents the American woman," Vogue editrix Anna Wintour told StyleList of the exhibit, titled "American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity." "She's someone who has a fantastic work ethic and a career and children. The clothes have to fit her life and that's why I chose Oprah as the co-chair, because to me she is the American woman."

Designer Michael Kors agreed. "Oprah – talk about an American icon," he told StyleList. "She's all about everything an American woman is. She's independent and smart."

Winfrey's escort for the evening, Oscar de la Renta, couldn't agree more. "Oprah represents all that is today," he said.

The talk show host/magazine editor put it into perspective with regard to the exhibit, which illustrated women's identities through their clothes from 1890 to 1940.

"When I walked through the exhibition today, it was emotional for me, especially after coming out of the suffragettes and realizing where we've come from," she told StyleList. "We didn't have the right to vote a century ago. I turned to Anna and said 'Tonight, you and I are at the Metropolitan Museum hosting this event.

"To be a part of that, especially when you know where we've come from, is so extraordinary. To understand that there's been a history and an evolvement as women people in this country – it represents more than fashion. It is fashion, but it's about life and style and presence and who we are as women people. That's what's really exciting to me."

And then changing the topic, Winfrey admitted there would be fun. "I feel so great in this dress, I will be eating and drinking a lot of tequila."

While Oprah was considering her drink of choice, others were hopeful for their own fun - albeit cocktails or fashion. Pop star Katy Perry admitted that her choice to wear a white strapless Cute Circuit dress adorned with flashing light sticks was for herself. "I respect and appreciate Anna Wintour, but I'm doing this for me," she told StyleList. "That's what people should do, especially when they're representing true women in American fashion." She pointed out that her dress had a little panic button on a wire in her cleavage, and if "Anna comes over and says 'shut that f-ing thing off' I'll do it."

Alexander Wang designed two gowns in woven leather, one worn by rapper M.I.A. (hers was the special Gap collaboration) one worn by Gisele Bundchen. "I feel like I am in Brazil," she the latter of her dress. (In other words, she was comfortable.)

Sarah Jessica Parker, whose voice is on the audio tour of the exhibit, used the evening to debut her first gown created in her new role as president of Halston Heritage. "I went over every inch of it and every seam," she said. "Seeing as the theme was 'American Woman' and Halston was one of the great American designers, it seemed very fitting."

Eva Mendes, in a fitted Dolce and Gabbana, chose the dress for a simple reason. "The dress fit, the zipper worked and here I am," she said,, adding that instead of keeping a beauty quick-fix in her evening bag, she had a vice. "I'm allowed one cigarette this evening," she said, pulling out a battered smoke.

Diane Kruger, the spokesmodel for the new Calvin Klein Beauty fragrance, hardly needed an evening bag for her beauty treats. "I actually am the clutch," her handbag, er, boyfriend, Joshua Jackson said while pulling a lipstick out of his pocket. Kruger, who was sporting an art deco diamond ring on her left ring finger, said it wasn't an engagement ring, "I wish," she added within Jackson's earshot.

The most casual man of the evening is usually the most dapper dressed. Vogue editor Hamish Bowles wore, gasp, jeans. "I'm wearing stonewashed jeans by Michael Bastian," he revealed. "It's the first time I wore jeans since I was 19," but this time he wore them with gems from Verdura.