Now that the White House Correspondents’ Dinner has come and gone the true lovers of fashion look forward to the fashion event of the year, tonight’s Met Gala. Unlike the WHCD, which is a who’s who of politics where guests aim not to stand out and is often called “nerd prom,” the Met Gala is “fashion prom.” The sensible shoes that a WHCD attendee reported were ubiquitous at the April fête are never found at the Met Gala. Standing out is the name of the game and what guests wear can be described as anything but sensible.
The theme this year is “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.” The exhibit will include more literal religious symbolism like the Versace and Dolce & Gabbana icons to “the more unexpected” like the Chanel wedding gown inspired by a communion dress and Valentino couture gowns inspired by Francisco di Zurbarán’s paintings of monk’s robes. It will be the department’s largest show to date. It may also be the most provocative.
The Met Gala, originally called the Costume Institute Gala, began in 1948 making this year the 70th anniversary of the event. Until 1971 the event was less exhibition, glamour, and fashion spectacle. Back then, New York’s society types were wined, dined, and entertained with skits, raffles, and models in historic costumes.
The event was given new life in 1973 by Diana Vreeland. The legendary fashion editor of Vogue was fired from her position at Vogue the year before and rumors were that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis founded and may even have funded her new position at the Met.
Fast forward to 1999. Under Vreeland, the annual exhibition had become the primary fundraiser for the Costume Institute at the Met, but it wasn’t until Anna Wintour became chairwoman almost 20 years ago that celebrities were put on the guest list. Inviting everyone from Sarah Jessica Parker to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, the event culminated into what it is today: the party of the year where celebrities and designers gather to see and be seen at what is often called the “Fashion Oscars.” Celebrities are invited for free, but you don’t have to be famous to attend so long as you’re willing to pay $30,000 for a ticket.
With hoards of celebrities wearing one-of-a-kind, jaw-dropping fashions, it begs the question, what does all this have to do with the way we here at DC Style Factory dress our clients? At first blush, not a lot. I’m not out shopping for wedding guest looks for my clients who want to look like Rihanna in her ornate explosion of petals that can only be the avant-garde, wearable art of Commes de Garçon’s Rei Kawakubo.
But look a little closer and the influence is undeniable. In 2006 the theme was Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion. This was the year Sarah Jessica Parker rocked the plaid Alexander McQueen tulle/plaid dress. Simultaneously, our team pulled a record number of plaid pants, tops, and dresses for clients. Coincidence? I think not!
Or, what about 2013’s Punk: Chaos to Couture theme and Nicole Richie’s Topshop column dress with gray-dyed hair? I remember the love affair I was having with fisherman net clothing and studs from that year; we were adding it to our clients closets to edge up their style!
Finally, what about that Rihanna, who is co-hosting this year’s event with Anna Wintour, Donatella Versace, and Amal Clooney? She has come to embody all that is art and inspiration at the Met Gala. The gold coat/gown that required a team to help carry it up the stairs as she walked? Positively epic.
Those moments remind me that a large part of what we do as personal stylists is to appreciate and understand the fashion — even when it eschews beauty for spectacle. The Met Gala is all about creativity where wearability takes a back seat in the name of innovation. The Met Gala is a chance to imagine and look at fashion as art, removing all the barriers that would otherwise require more realistic choices. By doing this, we as personal stylists — operating in the realm of wearability — can still provide something truly unique to our clients.
DC Style Factory is a personal shopping and styling service for men and women looking to add polish and individuality to their wardrobes. We believe personal style is for anyone who wants it — regardless of age, size or budget.