The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s sun-filled Temple of Dendur wing was buzzing this morning with journalists and patrons of the museum, ready to preview the new Costume Institute exhibit that will be feted tonight with fashion’s biggest party of the year—the Anna Wintour-hosted Met Gala.
Seated front and center among them was something of a wild card: former US national security advisor and secretary of state Henry Kissinger, in his signature rectangular-framed glasses.
Kissinger isn’t known to be a regular to the New York fashion scene, at least in recent decades. But the Met exhibit is “China: Through the Looking Glass” and Kissinger is the author of On China and, of course, credited with diplomacy that kickstarted relations between the US and China.
Back in his day, Kissinger was also a darling of the fashion press, and something of a ladies’ man. A WWD profile from the 1970s noted his appreciation of the reporter’s skin-tight fashion, and fawned over him despite his own “baggy, midnight blue cotton trousers,” bulging midsection, and “bright blue unfitted blazer.” (“You know I like these HotPants very much,” Kissinger is quoted as saying.) He hung out with the likes of Raquel Welch (at the 1985 Met Gala, no less), Diane Sawyer, Candice Bergen, and Jill St. John. Both the former secretary of state and his wife Nancy Kissinger, who he married in 1974, were longtime friends of the late fashion designer Oscar de la Renta and his wife, Annette. And for what it’s worth, Kissinger is known for his embrace—of just about anyone and everyone, however awkward those hugs wind up being.
Asked about the theme of the new Met exhibit, Kissinger affirmed that fashion indeed plays a role in diplomacy.
“I think anything that connects people and enables people to understand each other better, makes diplomacy easier—and more creative,” Kissinger told Quartz. ”This is a combination of fashion and history, what we see here, and of long achievement—and that’s the essence of China.”