The Met Gala aka the Met Ball aka the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, is the most prestigious event in the fashion calendar.

Celebrated on the first Monday in May as a worldwide fashion holiday, the Met Gala serves as a fundraising benefit for the museum's Costume Institute and marks the grand opening of its annual fashion exhibit. The event brings together celebrities, designers, and high-profile figures from various industries, all dressed following a dress code indicated with enough time to create expectations and begin conversations about what the event would bring. 

Shakira wears Carolina Herrera for her first Met Gala. The gown was made with +100 yards of fabric. Image Courtesy of Vogue.

This year, the theme “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” gathers over 250 pieces from the Costume Institute. Some of the oldest and most fragile items have been reimagined with AI, technology, and a mix of different senses. 

The dress code for the evening was “The Garden of Time”, inspired by a short story of the same name by J.G. Ballard in 1962. The co-chairs of the event were Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Hemwsorth, and Bad Bunny. The co-chairs work directly with Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue and chair of the Met Gala for the last two decades. 

Now, as technology, culture, politics, and fashion trends change from one Met Gala to the other, it is very important to understand the messages that the designers and fashion houses are trying to communicate. 

There is a lot of thought and a lot of creative minds behind the over 400 looks that walked the Met Steps this First Monday in May. From tailors and seamstresses to stylists, makeup artists, and hairdressers. 

Today, we are going to talk about some of the most meaningful and powerful messages that we saw on the red carpet. These messages do not always come from the celebrity who is wearing the garment; many times it is the designer and the creative team who is creating the story and telling it with avant-garde clothes for the biggest fashion event of the year. 

Did Zendaya send the wrong message by saying too much? 

Zendaya, one of the co-chairs of the Met Gala wore a gown from the fashion archive of John Galliano.

Zendaya was one of the co-chairs of the Met Gala. This is one of the highest honors of the event as the role includes getting involved in everything from decoration, colors, and curation, to entertainment, and visuals. Zendaya walked onto the carpet wearing a John Galliano dress for Dior from 1999. The dress fit her body beautifully, and the makeup and styling were dramatic and visually interesting causing a lot of mixed opinions. 

John Galliano, a tremendous artist who was clearly suggested by Anna Wintour to be worn by co-chairs, has an enormous fashion archive with dresses inspired by garden items, plants, and nature. Fans couldn’t stop wondering if this was truly the best option for Zendaya given that she had access to an entire collection of dresses that is now part of fashion history, and that, with the blessing of the editor-in-chief of Vogue, could have been brought to the carpet of the Met Gala. 

Zendaya wore two dresses for the Met Gala. Is she sending the misleading message that one dress is not enough? Image Courtesy of Vogue.

To make things even more controversial, about 90 minutes later, Zendaya showed up again. No, she wasn’t greeting guests at the door of the Met as co-chairs traditionally do. She was changing her hair, makeup, and dress to walk the carpet all over again. This time, it was another John Galliano dress with a vintage Alexander McQueen headpiece. The look was well received by fans who were following the live stream of the fashion event, wondering how she managed to change an entire outfit to walk the steps one more time.

The problem with social media and the instant gratification that comes with receiving these fashion photos in a matter of seconds is that the fashion that took so many hours and so much work by tailors, couturiers, and craftsmen, becomes irrelevant to so many people when the next photo comes up and they scroll the Instagram feed to see the next outfit. The fashion industry should indeed evolve and adapt to the social context that we live in to tailor the consumer’s needs. However, Zendaya’s use of John Galliano’s dresses from the historic fashion archive seemed disposable and frivolous. An event that takes place in a museum to celebrate the preservation and work of fashion as a form of art most respects the work, and history that comes with wearing these clothes, rather than wearing them and taking them off. 

Swarovski presented a traditional yet avant-garde proposal of wearing their crystals inspired by natural elements, but didn’t get the attention it deserved. 

Irina Shayk wore a dress with 84,000 Swarovski crystals. 
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Image Courtesy of Swarovski.

Karlie Kloss' dress took over 1,600 hours to create. Image Courtesy of Swarovski
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Image Courtesy of Swarovski.

For the first time in history, Swarovski presented high-end fashion looks for the Met Gala. These five looks were designed by Global Creative Director Giovanna Engelbert to fit the theme “Garden of Time”. With 3D modeling, embellishments, laboratory-grown diamonds, and crystals, the five looks that walked on the carpet represented Air, Flower, Water, Sun, and Nature. Although these looks didn’t make it to many of the best-dressed looks or the trending conversations going on social media during the evening of the First Monday in May, it is worth highlighting the hard work and efforts to push the creative and technological boundaries in fashion. 

Global Creative Director Giovanna Engelbert was in charge of creating  five natural element inspired high end fashion looks she created for the Met Gala. Image Courtesy of Swarovski.
Anok Yai wore a futuristic tulle catsuit embellished with 98,000 glimmering blue crystals. Image Courtesy of Swarovski.
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Image Courtesy of Swarovski.

Giovanna Engelbert in Swarovski. Image Courtesy of Vogue. 
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Image Courtesy of Swarovski

Demi Moore overshadowed by her designer


Demi Moore wears Nina Ricci for the Met Gala. Image Courtesy of Vogue.

When you are a fashion designer, you must have the creativity to tell stories through clothes that fit the personality and the needs of your clients. You must meet the deadlines, the themes, and the dress codes of the parties but also stay true to yourself. You must also do everything you can to make sure that the clothes you are creating get as much praise as attention as they can and that your client feels spectacular when that happens. This wasn’t the case for Harris Reed. The British American designer, who is the creative director of Nina Ricci, arrived at the Met Gala with Demi Moore. Both of them were wearing clothes created by Reed. The aesthetic was consistent, however, Reed’s were significantly more produced. There was a headpiece that added more height to her already +6ft tall height. There were flounces on her jumpsuit, there was a print, and there was a tail. 

When the two figures arrived on the carpet, there was cohesion between the two outfits, however, Moore was constantly hit by Reed’s flamboyant outfit. It almost seemed as if the designer was competing for attention with her muse. This could have been prevented by walking at different times on the carpet, or by not making the height gap between Moore and Reed so much larger than it already was before the headpiece. 

Demi Moore Met Gala: Look Details, Cartier Jewelry
Demi Moore and designer Harris Reed at the Met Gala.

At the Met Gala…was the fashion silent or was it silenced?

Nicole Kidman is wearing Balenciaga inspired by a classic piece from the Spanish house created in the 1960s. Image Courtesy of Vogue.
Flamenco inspired gown by Balenciaga. Image Courtesy of Vogue. 

There was an overall feel of these looks being subtle and discreet. Not minimal in the way that the quiet luxury global trends have suggested, but more of a toned-down way of wearing fashion. It was sad. As if guests didn’t want to be there or wear the clothes they wanted to wear. 

Rosalia wears a black dress designed by Maria Grazia for the House of Dior. Image Courtesy of Dior.

Some of the best dresses of the night, like Nicole Kidman’s by Balenciaga or Rosalia's by the House of Dior, are reinterpretations of very specific dresses by those fashion houses. These reinterpretations were not necessarily different from the original version. Perhaps their interpretation of the Garden of Time is that the present is so unfortunate that they wish to travel to another period of time. But this is a narrative based on an assumption. Both Kidman and Rosalia spoke only about the excitement of replicating an outfit from the past without a specific narrative. Nicole Kidman wanted to bring back the vision of Cristobal Balenciaga from the 1960s with a voluminous and sophisticated black and white dress. Rosalia wore a black dress by the House of Dior, one of the most classic silhouettes introduced by Christian Dior himself in the first half of the 20th century.

Rihanna wore Maison Margiela to fit the theme of Catholic Imagination back in the Met Gala 2018. Image Courtesy of Elle.

Maybe the flamboyant, theatrical Met Galas where Katy Perry arrived as a chandelier, and Rihanna dresses up like the Pope we want to see in the Vatican in our lifetimes are over. The difference in those days was that there seemed to be a love and appreciation for the fashion these people were wearing. We still reference many of the photos from these Met Galas. Yes, because the dresses are iconic and artistic, but also because our interaction with fashion was more personal and more meaningful. 

In this Met Gala, it almost didn’t matter if celebrities were wearing pieces of history, because Zendaya ran behind the scenes to change this piece of history and be photographed as if the only purpose of fashion as art was to be photographed. This is a dangerously misleading conception of art. 

Da’Vine Joy Randolph wears Custom Gap by Zac Posen for the Met Gala. Image Courtesy of Vogue. 

There were great looks like those presented by Swarovski, or the stupendous and exquisite tailoring that Zac Posen produced proving he is still a master of tailoring and high-end fashion as the Creative Director of Gap. But these great moments were overshadowed by Kim Kardashian pushing to establish unhealthy standards of beauty with a slim waist, and with celebrities like Bad Bunny, who are relying on relevant fashion houses to dress them. But the combination of relevant fashion houses in the composition of an outfit does not guarantee a successful outfit, and that was evident with the outfit that Bad Bunny, another co-chair of this year’s Met Gala, wore. 

Jennifer Lopez wears a sculptural Schiaparelli gown. Image Courtesy of The New York Times. 
Bad Bunny wore Maison Margiela, camel toe shoes and Tiffany sunglasses. Image Courtesy of Vogue.

Co-chair of the Met Gala, Chris Hemwsorth wears a beige Tom Ford suit. Image Courtesy of Vogue. 

Fashion is our values. This year. We saw one co-chair who wore fashion archive pieces as disposable fashion, one who relied on important fashion names to put together an outfit that was not successful (Bad Bunny), and another who did not seem to have an interest in being involved with the Met Gala, yet he showed up with a plain beige suit. (Yes, you, Chris Hemsworth!).

The Garden of Time is so open to interpretation, and the interpretations that we saw on the carpet were infested with a lack of values, pessimism, and disrespect for the clothes that are being worn and exhibited. 

 If the Garden of Time today is so dry and feels so meaningless, what would it take for it to bloom again?

Paloma Elsesser wears H&M. Image Courtesy of Vogue.