Image:Unsplash
Image:Unsplash

Why do we care about the Met Gala?

This week marked the 74th Met Gala, the annual gala held to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City, and the one time a year where everyone becomes a fashion critic by taking to social media with their opinions on celebrities’ outfits.

For fashion fanatics, the Met Gala is an extremely exciting event each year. Unlike typical red carpet appearances, the Met Gala encourages creativity and haute couture pieces – it’s an opportunity for celebrities to wear garments that would usually be considered too outlandish and extravagant for other events. The theme, carefully chosen each year, is often vague and open to interpretation to leave room for the fashion designers and the celebrities who will attend to think outside the box. This year’s theme, ‘America: An Anthology of Fashion’ described the dress code as ‘gilded glamour and white tie’, pulling inspiration from New York’s Gilded Age: a period where grandiosity and excess informed both the attitudes and the fashion.

The looks that don’t capture our imagination, the looks that fall flat or miss the mark, seem to create more of a cultural stir than those that incite applause.

As the celebrities started arriving, the masses took to Twitter to gush over their favourite looks and, of course, reprimand those who have worn something unstylish or contradictory to the all-important theme. Every year, we are subjected to celebrities who disappoint: those who ignore the dress-code completely, those who use the event to make a misjudged political statement, the countless number of men who wear a plain black suit every single year – the list goes on. In many ways, it seems that the looks that don’t capture our imagination, the looks that fall flat or miss the mark, seem to create more of a cultural stir than those that incite applause. While there remains praise for the Blake Livelys and the Zendayas, the Cardi Bs and the Tessa Thompsons, I have seen just as much – if not more – criticism for celebrities like Sebastian Stan and Kylie Jenner, who many thought disappointed with their looks this year. So, the question is: why does it matter so much whether celebrities impress us with their looks or ‘follow the dress-code’, so long as they’re promoting a charitable cause by attending the Met Gala? Why do we care so much?

Every year, it is more than a little disappointing to watch most celebrities fail to meet – or in some cases, even attempt to meet – an assignment

The Met Gala is an event most normal people can only dream to attend, accessible only to the most elite of the elite (or at least, those noticed and selected by Anna Wintour). A big reason for why so many regular people idolise this event is the boundless opportunity for art and expression. The idea of having complete freedom to devise your own interpretation for the theme, with unlimited access to all the wealth and resources you could need, is exciting and intriguing. In my own experience, I have been to countless themed events, whether that be birthdays or Halloween parties, or even a weekly POP! Wednesday, where friends and family have gone above and beyond to produce inventive, budget costumes and outfits – capturing only a microcosm of the creativity that the Met Gala stands for. Every year, it is more than a little disappointing to watch most celebrities fail to meet – or in some cases – even attempt to meet, an assignment, even with access to all the designers, creative teams, resources, and wealth they could possibly need.

It’s an opportunity for originality, for creativity, for artistic expression

The current media landscape often seems to leave little room for creativity. Mainstream film and television has recently seemed to favour remakes, reboots, and adaptations of already existing media. Rather than invest in originality, corporations have proven time and time again that they will opt for the option less risk-averse. Why spend money on a new story when you have a guaranteed audience with another Toy Story sequel? Why try something new with your social media app when you can rehash TikTok’s short content strategy? The Met Gala is an event that should contradict this style of thinking. It’s an opportunity for originality, for creativity, for artistic expression. With a team of stylists, perfect teeth, a rigorous exercise regime, and all the self-care luxuries money can buy, it is easy for wealthy celebrities to appear beautiful at these types of events. The Met Gala, however, is not about beauty – it is about engaging with concepts of history, culture, and fashion. The frustration many feel as they view yet another perfect plain black suit, yet another beautiful, but archetypal lacy black dress, or yet another celebrity who didn’t really think about the theme, is indicative of the wider frustration society has with the state of brands, media, and celebrity culture as a whole.

The look is the culmination of imagination, craftsmanship, and meticulous realisation of the possibilities of the ‘gilded glamour’ as a dress-code

Blake Lively, a Met Gala favourite, wore an outfit this year that was a feat of both artistry and creativity whilst showing a careful consideration for the theme. Her Versace dress paid homage to the several pieces of American culture from the Gilded Age – it appeared to initially be a beautiful bronze coloured dress, but soon revealed a turquoise underside with constellations embroidered on the train, the colour change mimicking the oxidation of the Statue of Liberty and the constellations intended to look like the ceiling of Grand Central Station. While the look is, of course, stunning on Blake Lively, it does more than simply
highlight her beauty. The look is the culmination of imagination, craftsmanship, and meticulous realisation of the possibilities of the ‘gilded glamour’ as a dress-code.

While wearing a dazzling outfit to a gala is a seemingly insignificant complaint, it mirrors many gripes with celebrities having access to seemingly unlimited wealth and resources, yet choosing to not put those resources to use. I think the coronavirus crisis has only elevated our frustration with this attitude, especially reflecting upon the lack of support from multi-millionaire celebrities during the pandemic. When so many of us feel powerless, seeing those with power choosing to be passive ultimately leaves us disillusioned with these images of celebrity that we once regarded so highly.

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