Opinion: Met Gala 2024 — What Does Biggest Night Out Really Stand For?

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Like clockwork, the first Monday in May sees the most influential designers and creatives in the fashion industry ascend the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute alongside the biggest stars of Hollywood. The theme of the evening was “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion,” and the official dress code was “The Garden of Time,” the reference went beyond nature-inspired prints and floral motifs. It was intended to be a retrospective look at fashion’s famous archival pieces. The Gala was in line with the Costume Institute’s latest exhibition titled “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” which features over 200 rare creations from the institute’s archive, spanning over the course of 400 years and including the works of some of history’s most prolific designers.

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As reported by USA Today, Met director and CEO Max Hollein explained that once the pieces make their way into the collection, they turn into an object in the sense that the garment will no longer be touched, modified or worn for its intended purpose, instead preserved as a work of art. These archival pieces are pieces of history, with some being too fragile to even be placed on a mannequin. They are preserved and in essence “laid to rest” for attendees to admire like a sartorial “Sleeping Beauty”. The institute also utlises technology to revive these archival pieces, although the creations are not for touching; AI and technology come in to offer a more interactive experience with immersive and multi-sensory aspects. Technology brings the archive garments to life, working in tandem with the theme of rebirth, hence the theme “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion”.

Therefore, what one would have expected to see the re-emergence of archival pieces buried deep in the vaults of storied Maisons like Christian Dior who was notoriously famous for having a penchant for florals, or perhaps something from Mugler’s Couture 1997 Les Chimères (“Mythical Creatures”) collection or Alexander McQueen’s poignant Spring/Summer 2001 “Voss” show. Stylists should have opted for the perfect amalgamation of historic pieces that were nature-inspired to truly tick the box of the “The Garden of Time” theme. Instead, we were met with a literal display of florals and nature-inspired gowns, though while beautiful, did bring to mind the infamous quote from Meryl Streep’s character as Miranda Priestly in 2007’s The Devil Wears Prada: “Florals..? For Spring? Groundbreaking…”

It is no secret that the Met Gala is often a time of extravagance intended to highlight the power of escapism and fantasy that the fashion industry possess and showcasing avant-garde couture and conceptual creation,s but it may need to evolve into more. On a night that had such a huge emphasis on the preservation of fashion, there also should have been more importance paid to the role of sustainability in the fashion industry. Next, with regard to showcasing a retrospective of fashion through the decades, there is a nod to preserving the relevance of houses, particularly in the fashion zeitgeist. However, in 2015, the Met Gala theme was “China: Through the Looking Glass” and cultural appropriation aside, it also saw the rise of the genius that is Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei. Rihanna famously wore her embroidered yellow dress on the steps of the Met Gala making her an internet sensation and raising her name to the public consciousness globally. However, since then, aside from the upper echelon of fashion insiders, one might not be aware of where or what Guo Pei is doing today, particularly in comparison to European fashion houses.


In fact, the most news-worthy headlines since then have often almost exclusively come from viral moments, controversies, and celebrities who missed the theme. In 2019, the Met Gala theme was “Camp: Notes on Fashion” which Katy Perry took to dressing up as a chandelier while others went the route of a pride parade dressing in colours of the rainbow.

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In 2022, one of the most memorable moments of the evening was when Kim Kardashian inched up the stairs in a crystal-embellished dress famously worn by the late Marilyn Monroe in 1962 when she serenaded American president John F Kennedy for his birthday, only for some to later claim that significant damage was done to the dress afterwards.

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In 2023, the theme was “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” in which the most notorious images to come out of the event were Doja Cat’s use of prosthetics, Lil Nas X covering himself in glitter and Jared Leto in a full body costume, paying homage to Karl Lagerfeld’s pet cat Choupette instead of the designer of the evening. Perhaps that could be one reason why this year’s theme was so abstract as opposed to the likes of previous years, for fear that a one-dimensional take would still qualify to fit the theme.

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The Met Gala should move away from being controversial for controversy’s sake and instead hone in on the legacy of the fashion houses they represent and use their platform to highlight issues like sustainability. However, it is worth noting that the Met Gala does infact bring in revenue and fund aid for non-profit cultural organisations. In 2022, the gala managed to fetch a record USD 17.4 million for the Costume Institute. 

Read More: What Does The Met Gala 2022’s Record-Breaking US$17.4M Earnings Mean?

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