Prabal Gurung’s spring 2020 show poses the question, Who Gets to be American? (Photo Credit: Nylon)
After a global pandemic hiatus, the MET Gala celebration is back! On May 2nd, fashion insiders, celebrities, and street style stars will gather for an exclusive fundraiser that benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. Better known as fashion’s Red Carpet.
This year’s MET event once again celebrates American fashion in an exhibit entitled, In America: An Anthology of Fashion“. It is the second and final installation of their two-part series, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, which debuted September 2021. Who will ever forget the image of Kim Kardashian climbing the MET steps in her black fully-covered masked Balenciaga?
HBO’s The Gilded Age. (Photo Credit: Landmark Media)
Those of you who follow MET gala events know that for attendees there is always a ‘dress code’. This year’s code takes inspiration from New York’s Gilded Age (1870 to 1890). The show’s theme and exhibition asks the question “Who gets to be American?” A question posed at Prabal Gurung’s spring/summer 2020 show, and according to Andrew Bolton, Costume Institute’s head curator, the dichotomy of fashion exclusivity vs inclusivity.
(Left to Right) Regina King, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)
This year’s MET Gala will be hosted by Blake Lively, Ryan Reynolds, Regina King, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Meanwhile, continuing their roles as MET Gala honorary co-chairs are, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour (who has run the MET Gala since 1995), Council of Fashion Designers of America chairman Tom Ford, and Instagram head, Adam Mosseri.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, Billie Eilish, Amanda Gorman, Anna Wintour, Timothée Chalamet, Naomi Osaka and Tom Ford attending the 2021 Met Gala. (Photo Credit: Net-A-Porter)
Aside from the celebrity co-chairs, so far, no other stars have confirmed their attendance for the MET Gala. The event’s guest list has always been closely guarded, with attendees generally kept secret until the event itself. Many fashion fans are speculating that the event’s usual attendees, Kendall Jenner, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, and Gigi Hadid will attend fashion’s biggest night. Unfortunately, fashion’s hottest star of the moment, Zendaya, will not be attending the MET Gala for the third year running, due to her busy work schedule.
Zendaya dressed as Cinderella in a light-up Tommy Hilfiger dress at the 2019 Met Gala. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
While celebrities are expected to wear Gilded Age theme looks created by American designers, last year’s September event saw a majority of stars wearing European labels, Balenciaga, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Valentino, Givenchy and Chanel. What was that about? Where were the Charles James gowns?
The exhibit opens to the public on May 7th and runs until Sept. 5, 2022. Through its curation, it addresses issues of social justice, identity and diversity and is meant to “illustrate the shifting tides of American fashion,” according to the Met’s director Max Hollein.
ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
The Costume Institute’s In America: An Anthology of Fashion is presented in collaboration with The MET’s American Wing. This section of the exhibition will highlight sartorial narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of 13 of the American Wing period rooms and “provides a historical context for Lexicon, in a way,” Bolton told Vogue. “The stories really reflect the evolution of American style, but they also explore the work of individual tailors, dress-makers, and designers,” he says. “What’s exciting for me is that some of the names will be very familiar to students of fashion, like Charles James, Halston, and Oscar de la Renta, but a lot of the other names really have been forgotten, overlooked or relegated into the footnotes of fashion history. So one of the main intentions of the exhibition is to spotlight the talents and contributions of these individuals, and many of them are women.”
According to a press release from the MET, both men’s and women’s fashion dating from the eighteenth century to the present, will be featured in vignettes installed in select period rooms spanning from 1805 to 1915: a Shaker Retiring Room from the 1830s; a nineteenth-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia; a panoramic 1819 mural of Versailles; and a twentieth-century living room designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, among others. Viewing fashion in the context of their actual surroundings, rather than in a display line-up, is so much more interesting. Don’t you agree?
Ball gown, Marguery Bolhagen (American, 1920–2021), ca. 1961. (Photo Credit: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
These interiors display a survey of more than two hundred years of American domestic life and tell a variety of stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological. The exhibition will reflect on these narratives through a series of three-dimensional cinematic “freeze frames” produced in collaboration with notable American film directors. These mise-en-scènes will explore the role of dress in shaping American identity and address the complex and layered histories of the rooms.
A wedding dress by Ann Lowe is on display and will be part of The Costume Institute’s 2022 spring exhibition. (Photo Credit: Sarah Yenesel)
HOW CAN YOU WATCH THE MET GALA COVERAGE?
Yes, we can all watch the MET gala coverage on May 2nd. Vogue is exclusively streaming coverage from the event and red carpet on its website and social media platforms. Red carpet coverage will be hosted by Vanessa Hudgens and La La Anthony.
SO TELL US, WILL YOU BE WATCHING THE MET GALA COVERAGE ON MAY 2nd ?
Every first Monday in May, fashion designers, celebrities and fashion insiders gather to celebrate the fashion event of the year, the Met Gala. Formally called The Costume Institute Gala or The Costume Institute Benefit, it’s also known as the Met Ball. The event is the Met’s annual fundraising gala to benefit their Costume Institute, which boasts a collection of thirty-three thousand objects, representing seven centuries of fashionable dress and accessories for men, women, and children from the fifteenth century to the present. The Met Gala is considered to be the fashion industry’s premier red carpet event, equivalent to the Oscars.
This year however, due to Covid-19, the Met Gala was cancelled and the exhibition was postponed until October, since museums in NYC were closed on March 13th and only opened as of August 29th. Such a shame, especially since 2020 is the year that the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates its 150th anniversary. Though we won’t get to oggle, oggle and gawk as celebs climb the Met steps dressed in outrageous outfits, we will get to view this year’s exhibition entitled, About Time: Fashion and Duration when it opens its doors to the public on October 29, 2020 – February 7, 2021.
Before we give you a sneak peek at the exhibition, we thought it would be fun to look at the history of the Met Gala, the people involved in its evolution and how the Met has turned a museum benefit into BIG BUSINESS.
WHAT IS THE MET GALA
The Metropolitan Museum of Art located on Fifth Ave. in New York City. (Photo: Courtesy of The Met)
One of the first questions everyone wants to know is, “who chooses the theme for The Costume Institute’s big exhibition and how far in advance is it planned?
Answer: Head curator Andrew Bolton and his 32 person team research potential themes years in advance though an effort is made to reflect the cultural sensibilities of the times. Once Bolton and his team are happy with a particular theme, they present it to the museum’s director and president for approval and of course to Anna Wintour. Wintour has chaired and co-hosted the event since 1995. The hands-on curation of the show starts as soon as the Met’s spring show opens, giving the team 12 months to make the magic happen all over again.
THE HISTORY OF THE MET GALA
Fashion’s First Lady, Eleanor Lambert. (Photo: Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal)
It all started in 1948 when fashion publicist extraordinaire, Eleanor Lambert (referred to as the first lady of fashion), established the Met Gala as a way to raise money and awareness for the newly-founded Costume Institute. The gala however, was not always the grand event that it is today. For the first few decades, the gala was simply one of many annual benefits held for New York charitable institutions and the attendees of the early galas were almost entirely members of New York high society and the city’s fashion industry. In fact, the very first gala was a midnight dinner with tickets priced at only fifty dollars! In addition, from 1948 to 1971, the event was not held at the Met, as it is today, but at various venues including the Waldorf-Astoria, Central Park, and the Rainbow Room.
Diana Vreeland, the former editor in chief of Vogue, who revolutionized fashion magazines. (Photo: Courtesy of CR Fashion Book)
In 1973, Diana Vreeland, former Vogue Editor-in-Chief, joined the Met as Special Consultant to The Costume Institute. Vreeland turned the Gala into a glamorous affair, although one that was still aimed at the societal set. Under the fashion icon’s tenure, the event became more celebrity-oriented with attendees like Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Diana Ross, Elton John, Liza Minnelli and Cher intermixing with the city’s elite. Thanks to Vreeland’s dramatic flair, themes for the event were introduced, beginning with the very first of her legendary exhibitions, The World of Balenciaga. The Costume Institute’s collections swelled with donors’ gifts during Vreeland’s brilliant tenure and her most precious legacy is undoubtedly, the public’s sustained interest in costume and the large audiences that are now attracted to the field.
Anna Wintour at the 2019 Met Gala. (Photo Credit: POPSUGAR)
In 1995, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was named chairwoman of the Gala event (excluding 1996 and 1998). Wintour and her staff, oversee both the benefit committee and the guest list of approximately 700 attendees. According to The New York Times, tickets to the event in 2019 were a whopping $35,000 apiece and tables ranged from $200,000 to $300,000, quite a jump from 1948’s dinner ticket of $50 a piece!
Pre-Covid, the Gala evening consisted of a red-carpet photo opportunity, a cocktail hour and a formal dinner. During the cocktail hour, guests would tour the exhibition before being seated for dinner and entertainment. The theme of the event not only set the tone for the exhibition, but also provided an opportunity for the guests to dress in a way that upheld the exhibition’s theme.
ABOUT TIME: FASHION AND DURATION
A poster of the exhibit. (Left) A dress by Iris Van Herpen from the designers fall 2012–13 haute couture collection. (Right) Ball Gown by Charles James, created in 1951. (Photo Credit: Nicholas Alan Cope)
This year’s exhibit, About Time: Fashion and Duration, was inspired by Virginia Woolf (one of the most important modernist 20th century authors and pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device) and 20th-century French philosopher Henri Bergson (known for his idea of time as la durée, or duration, something which can be measured through images but never perceived as a whole). The exhibit looks back at the timeline of women’s fashion from the last 150 years (dating from 1870 to today), which coincides with the Met’s 150th anniversary. Woolf serves as the “ghost narrator” of the exhibit.
“Fashion is indelibly connected to time, it not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times,” Andrew Bolton, head curator of The Costume Institute, told The New York Times.
Had the Met Gala taken place in May, the co-chairs of the event would have been Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton (the brand was to serve as a sponsor for the event). It would have marked the first ever Met Gala attendance for Streep.
In February of 2020, Nicolas Ghesquière and Andrew Bolton revealed details of the time-themed exhibition at a news conference before the global pandemic shut down the world. Keeping the 150th anniversary of The Met in mind, they shared that the exhibition would be designed as a clock, constructed by two sets of 60 fashion pieces that signify sartorial moments since 1870 (the year the museum was founded). The first set of garments, a collection in all-black, would tell time linearly. The second set, which would include black-and-white pieces, would tell time in an “alternative timeline” or “interruptions,” per WWD.
“We didn’t want to present them as a straightforward masterworks exhibition, a kind of simplistic overview of styles or an expected A-Z of fashion designers,” said Bolton. “I think fashion history has moved on from this rather reductive approach, and so too, I think, has our fashion audience.”
Looks from About Time: Fashion and Duration. (Photo: Courtesy of The Met)
The exhibition factors in topical issues as well, namely that of “digital capitalism.” Bolton explained, “While companies have benefited from this sped-up, around-the-clock temporality of digital capitalism, designers have often been creatively constrained by its 24/7 continuous functioning, so we thought it might be an opportune moment to explore the temporal character of fashion from a historical perspective.”
The Costume Institute also created a video, lasting nearly 12 minutes. The virtual tour follows the intended format for the exhibition, by showing historical and contemporary designs, side-by-side to reveal similarities. Images of the dresses – which were taken from The Costume Institute’s collection – are shown with the year they were created and details of the designer or era, to gradually explore fashion from 1870 (the year the Met was founded) to the present day. Case in point, a look from Morin Blossier from 1902, next to a 2018 look from Nicolas Ghesquiere for Louis Vuitton.
Throughout the black-and-white movie illustrations of pared-back clock faces, alludes to the exhibit’s time-traveling theme. The moving images are also interspersed with quotations from novels by English writer Virginia Woolf, such as Mrs Dalloway and Orlando. Woolf, who died in 1941, serves as the exhibition’s “ghost narrator.”
(Left) Vintage riding jacket (Right) a jacket from Junya Watanabe. (Photo: Courtesy of The Met)
According to the Met’s press release about the show, the timeline will unfold in two adjacent galleries fabricated as enormous clock faces (the set was designed by Es Devlin) and organized around the principle of 60 minutes of fashion. Each ‘minute’ will feature a pair of garments, with the primary work representing the linear nature of fashion and the secondary work its cyclical character. To illustrate French philosopher Henri Bergson’s concept of duration—of the past co-existing with the present—the works in each pair will be connected through shape, motif, material, pattern, technique, or decoration. For example, a black silk faille princess-line dress from the late 1870s is paired with an Alexander McQueen “Bumster” skirt from 1995. A black silk satin dress with enormous leg o’mutton sleeves from the mid-1890s will be juxtaposed with a Comme des Garçons deconstructed ensemble from 2004.
As we all know, the world has changed dramatically from February to today. So, Bolton spent the last few months tweaking and making changes to the exhibit. In an exclusive interview with Vogue’s Hamish Bowles, Bolton spoke about his process of reflection and re-curation. “I wanted to stage an exhibition that was a meditation on fashion and temporality—drawing out the tensions between change and endurance, transience and permanence, ephemerality and persistence. Originally the idea was to create two timelines: a linear chronology of fashion from 1870 to 2020, celebrating the Met’s 150th anniversary and focusing on the fleeting and fugitive rhythm of fashion. The second timeline—the “interventions”—would represent a series of nonsequential counterchronologies, like knots or folds in time, exploring the interconnectedness of history, the past, and the present.”
The linear timeline focused on all black silhouettes, while the cyclical timeline focused on white. But Bolton felt limited by the curation, so the curator decided to change the exhibit and only present black silhouettes to make the presentation stronger and making the comparisons between the pairings easy to identify.
(Left) A gigot-sleeved raincoat from 1895. Photo Courtesy of The Met. (Right) J.W. Anderson’s fall 2020 collection. (Photo Credit: Gorunway.com)
Another issue Bolton was able to address was his desire to include more designers who weren’t so well known throughout fashion history. So he paired a Frederick Loeser & Co. riding habit circa 1897 with a Victor Joris suit from 1968 that Baby Jane Holzer had donated to The Costume Institute. Victor Joris served as an assistant to both Dior and Balmain before launching his own collection.
But the bigger change to the curation was really a direct response to Black Lives Matter. When Bolton first worked on the curation, he wasn’t focused on issues of race and ethnicity or gender and sexuality. In the interview Bolton stated:
“It was purely aesthetic: I was looking at changes in silhouettes from 1870 through to the present and creating the strongest juxtapositions with the “interventions.” But with the social-justice movements of this spring and summer, I looked at the curation and knew I wanted to include more Black, indigenous, people-of-color designers. BLM has made me reflect on fashion curation more generally and the need to create new, more inclusive definitions. I think that we need to readdress the misperception that fashion is exclusively Western, and we need to construct more diverse fashion histories and narratives. This is something that I’m thinking about for future shows; every decision that I make going forward has to be informed by race and ethnicity and gender and sexuality. The awareness can’t go away; this is a lifelong commitment.”
(Left) An early iteration of the little black dress from the Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, ca. 1927. (Right) Off-White by Virgil Abloh dress, 2018. (Photo Credit: Ethan James Green)In the original exhibit, Bolton paired Chanel’s iconic little black dress, circa 1927, with a rather literal copy by Norman Norell from 1965. “But I’d always had Virgil Abloh’s “Little Black Dress” in the back of my mind: equally as strong but more ironic.” So now Abloh’s dress will be on display rather than the original Norell. Bolton also scoured vintage retailers to find all black silhouettes from designers of color, such as Stephen Burrows, Lamine Kouyate of XULY.Bët, Patrick Kelly, Olivier Rousteing for Balmain and Shayne Oliver from Hood by Air.
According to Bolton, “In light of recent events, it’s important to readdress what traditionally have been fashion’s defining characteristics—luxury, power, class, ephemerality, obsolescence. I hope the show helps us reflect on these encoded ideologies and encourages us to raise important questions for the industry.”
Since all of the garments in the exhibition are black, Bolton decided to end the show with a statement piece – an all white dress from Viktor & Rolf’s spring 2020 haute couture collection. The gown is made from upcycled swatches in a patchwork design—an opposite metaphor for the future of fashion with its emphasis on community and sustainability. According to Bolton,”the dress will be shown floating in an “infinity box” surrounded by a tornado of swatches (inspired by the artist E. V. Day’s “Exploding Couture” series from 1999–2002), like a weather-worn phoenix rising from the ashes.”
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Left to right: Kim Kardashian in Versace, Madonna in Jean Paul Gaultier, Gigi Hadid in Versace, Sarah Jessica Parker in Dolce & Gabbana, and Zendaya in Versace (Photo courtesy of Cosmopolitan.com
“Just like a Prayer,” Madonna’s 80s hit came to life at this year’s Met Gala. No matter what your religion, the Met Gala Red Carpet was filled with regal references, courtesy of the Catholic Church. It came as no surprise to fashion industry insiders that the Costume Institute choose such a controversial theme, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” especially considering that their 1983 exhibition, “The Vatican Collections: The Papacy and Art,” was the third most visited exhibit in the museum’s history (#1- Treasures of Tutankhamen-1978-79-1,360,000 visitors, #2-Mona Lisa 1963- 1,077,521 visitors). The Met is hoping that this exhibit will be a big money-maker. It certainly is one of the largest since it includes two locations, the Met Fifth Ave and the Met Cloisters.
(Photo courtesy of the Met)
However, this time around, Christianity, as interpreted by the Costume Institute, meant mixing the sacred and the profane. Included in the exhibit are ecclesiastical garments on loan from the Vatican, jostling for attention right next to high fashion from the usual suspects, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Chanel, Balenciaga and Valentino.
The Met Gala is fashion’s biggest night. This year the event was hosted by Rihanna, Amal Clooney, Donatella Versace, Anna Wintour and Stephen and Christine Schwarzman. As for the Red Carpet, there were plenty of religious imagery, complete with headpieces and lots of crosses. With no shortage of religious references, the bold and the beautiful competed for attention by feigning controversy, while remaining well within the boundaries of the game. Let’s thank Madonna for getting out Jean Paul Gaultier!
Aman Clooney in Richard Quinn abd George Clooney (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Bee Shaffer in Valentino and Anna Wintour (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Some of the most memorable images of the night included Rihanna’s papal crown and cape designed by Margiela; Katy Perry wore 6-foot angel wings; and Cardi B’s jeweled headpiece and plunging beaded gown, this was her first Met Gala red carpet and she did not disappoint.
Katy Perry in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Rapper 2 Chainz popped the question to Kesha Ward, with whom he already has three children. She said yes, though it was unclear if this was Epps’ original proposal. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian walked the carpet solo without her husband Kanye West, which was a surprise considering West’s love of fashion and who has attended the event for the past few years.
2 Chainz Propsed to Kesha Ward at the Met Gala
It was no surprise that the accessory that topped all others of the night were over-the-top headpieces. Crowns, veils and even a Pope Mitre hat!
Rihanna in Maison Margiela (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Jeremy Scott and Cardi B in Moschino (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Solonge Knowles (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
Joan Smalls (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
Priyanka Chopra (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)
Here are some of the best looks of the night:
Madonna and Jean Paul Gaultier (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Jennifer Lopez in Balmain (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Lana del Ray and Jared Leto, both in Gucci (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Ariana Grande in Vera Wang (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Migos in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Nicki Minaj in Oscar de la Renta (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Chadwick Boseman in Versace (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images)
Donatella (Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock Images) Versace
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