When you think of MET Gala, apart from the everchanging slew of celebs in attendance, the one thing that stands out is the celebration of fashion and everything adjacent, like beauty, creative endeavour and art. Year after year, since 1971, the MET Gala has defined and redefined fashion as a form of art. While the museum has recently declared the official theme for MET Gala 2024 (Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion), the tapestry of various themes that have been put forth before is simply too stunning to ignore. Let us discuss the historical themes of MET Gala, how they have impacted the culture on the overall, and what the theme for the next year really means.
Some of the most popular and looked-forward-to themes of the MET Gala have centred around the most iconic brands that deal in the business of haute fashion. These include Balenciaga, which was highlighted all the way back in 1973 as the central theme for the night, all the way to Schiparelli and Prada in 2013. This list of select, most prominent names in the high-end fashion industry includes Yves Saint Laurent, The House of Chanel, Dior, and more.
Over its run of 42 years, there have been certain distinguished artists that the MET Gala has paid an attribute to for their immense contributions to the fashion industry as a whole. From spotlighting the Russian art critic Diagheliv in 1978 to the legendary creative director Karl Lagerfeld in 2023, the MET has chronicled and celebrated the legacy of many a icons throughout the years. This roster includes Diane Vreeland, Christian Dior, Gianni Versace, Poiret, Alexander McQueen, Charles James, and Rei Kawakubo.
To portray the importance of retrospection in fashion, the MET has also called back to certain most defining eras in the genre of fashion. While the theme regarding the Habsburg Era reminisced the Austrian-Hungarian empire in its glory years, the theme titled ‘From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress, 1837–1877’ memorialised the queen of the British Empire and how her wardrobe impacted generations to come. Other eras covered by the MET include the Belle Epoque (post World War I), Ch'ing Dynasty, the Age of Napoleon, the 18th Century, and the period of Kennedys in the White House.
It is not only monarchs and fashion houses that the MET has shed a light over in their themes. Women, as a concept and subject of beauty, have also been celebrated multiple times as the core theme. Take, for instance, the themes ‘The Eighteenth-Century Woman’, ‘American Women of Style’ and ‘American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity’ have all centred around feminine fashion in the USA. However, the themes ‘Goddess: The Classical Mode’ and ‘Théâtre de la Mode – Fashion Dolls: The Survival of Haute Couture’ have captured more specific perspectives on womanly attire.
How the MET Gala committee curates and finalises the themes for the night of opulence is truly a mystery. However, it often takes inspiration from cultures around the world and at home. Be it Hollywood or the royal lineages of India, the gala has put on the centre stage various worldly styles and couture. While this list could be longer, MET Gala themes related to specific culture have included ‘The Glory of Russian Costume’, ‘Costumes of China’ , ‘AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion’ and ‘Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress’.
Now there have been certain themes that have been ‘kooky’ to say the least. These include ‘Untailored Garments’, ‘Man and the Horse’, ‘Cubism and Fashion’, ‘Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy’, ‘Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology’, and the notoriously whimsical ‘Notes on Camp.’ These themes get not only the media but even fashion designers scratching their heads. However, in the end, despite a few hiccups here and there, these concepts and their execution move ahead the entire industry and create real, measurable progress in the realm of fashion.
Exploring the theme: MET Gala 2024
The theme for MET Gala 2024 has been announced as ‘Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.’ This theme intends to explore the intersection of fashion, slumber, and rebirth, drawing inspiration from the timeless archetype of the sleeping beauty, a figure often found in fairy tales and mythology. In the context of fashion, the theme suggests a reawakening of historical garments stored with the MET, a celebration of the transformative power of fashion, and a reflection on the ephemeral nature of trends.
While we cannot wait to see what the attendees and the museum has in store for the night and the exhibition to follow, we would love to hear your take on the abstraction.