Anna Wintour and the Costume Institute Aim to Celebrate American Fashion at this Year’s Met
During a time of social unrest and a loss of confidence in the American experiment, will the fashion world be able to adapt?
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After an unprecedented break in tradition, fashion’s largest fundraiser is finally just around the corner. Set to take place on September 13th, following immediately after the close of NYFW, The Met Gala will return to the city’s grand museum steps and our humble television screens.
A Year in Fashion Defined by the Absence of the Met’s Famed Red Carpet
We never did get to see our favorite designers’ interpretations of last year's theme About Time, an idea that pulled inspiration from the writings of Virgina Woolf and aimed to highlight the industry’s transformative and reflective nature, in both a creative and capitalist sense. Although there was a significant digital attempt to keep the magic alive, from Vogue’s A Moment With the Met to high fashion Twitter’s makeshift hashtag substitute, there’s no denying that this return feels monumental. With no formal and physical celebration since Camp’s reign in 2019, the hunger for inspired and elusive ensembles is at an all time high.
So, what do they plan on feeding us this year? If you’ve ever watched The First Monday in May while amorously gawking at the rigorous yet enriched environment, you know that between museum curator Andrew Bolton and Vogue EIC Anna Wintour, this decision is not without massive contemplation. Imagine the energy present at the Costume Institute conference table, with Wintour’s shaded gaze and Bolton’s pressure to live up to past success. The result this time around? A two-part recognition of ‘Independence.’
Celebrating Americana in Fashion: A Fine Line to Walk for the Institute
September’s soiree and May’s madness will be a synchronous series, with the official title being “In America,” the first part a lexicon, and the second an anthology. There seems to always be an obvious cultural significance that resonates with the museum’s guidelines, and this time around, it seems simultaneously glaringly and subjectively inaccessible and self-important.
After more than a year and a half of battling a raging pandemic that’s claimed hundreds of thousands of lives across the country, an outcry against rampant police brutality against POC and the current unraveling of 20 years of failed American foreign policy in the Middle East, how can the Costume Institute celebrate Americana in fashion without simply glazing over the fact that we kind of suck sometimes? They're teetering on the edge of celebrating the unique designers that set us apart and risking a senseless celebration of the ill informed narrative that we're exceptional.
The answer is simple: Address the elephant in the room.
It’s difficult to seek confidence in trusting that Anna Wintor, a larger-than-life figure in fashion with a dicey track record of being notoriously out of touch and fostering toxic work environments, will pull off the feat when skating across such thin ice. It will without a doubt be a cumbersome task. However, the details that have emerged from fashion’s Super Bowl shine light on a possible change in tides on how we view American fashion.
Honorary chairs for this year’s Met will include Anna Wintour, of course, Tom Ford and Adam Mosseri, who currently serves as the head of Instagram. More importantly, the co-chairs for this year’s event include Timothée Chalamet, Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka and Amanda Gorman - just some of the fresh faces representing a cultural shift in American cinema, music, sports and culture.
The first part of the exhibition titled A Lexicon of Fashion will open to the public on September 18th at the Anna Wintour Costume Center in the Met to mark the Institute’s 75th anniversary. Featured designers will include Christopher John Rodgers, Pyer Moss, Prabal Gurung and Andre Walker, seemingly reflective of the Institute’s imperative effort to uplift and celebrate designers from oppressed and underserved communities.
The second part of the exhibition will coincide with another gala, scheduled to be held on May 2nd of next year. Titled An Anthology of Fashion, the exhibition will open to the public on May 5th in the period rooms of the Met’s American Wing. The second exhibition will employ American film directors to create scenes highlighting the figures who have helped to define American fashion throughout the years. Think Halston, Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Hererra.
The Guest List: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?
Probably the only thing more exciting than finding out the theme to the Met Gala is discovering who’s on the guest list and how they’ll interpret the theme. Other than the accustomed set of invites packed with high-profile figures like Naomi Campbell, J-Lo and just about every member of the Kar-Jenner clan, this will be one of the first years that we’ll be seeing some new faces. Yes, we’re looking at you Addison Rae.
While the Met Gala is no stranger to inviting controversial figures to the event - for example, James Charles - it will be reemerging in an era defined by TikTok stars and a pervasive online influencer landscape. Does that mean Lady Gaga and Celine Dion might be rubbing elbows with Emma Chamberlain and Dixie D’Amelio? A now viral seating chart that’s since been deemed as fake indulges our imaginations in the meantime. Let’s just say I would want to be a fly on the wall if they even dared put Addison Rae next to Naomi Campbell.
The success of this year’s Gala is essentially dependent on what aspects of American culture attendees and designers choose to highlight. Will the focus be on the diverse community of creatives that define American culture and inspire counter-culture, or will the event fall short and defy change similar to how the country rejects evolution?
It’s a fine line between blind nationalism and justifiable pride. As those who organized the event and those who attend walk this line, we’ll be watching closely to see where they land. One major takeaway we’re confident about, however, is that our diversity is intrinsically American, and that’s something to celebrate on and off the carpet.
Jacob McLean is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. When he's not hunched over his computer, drinking alarming amounts of coffee or searching for new music, you'll probably find him daydreaming about his future life in NYC like every other basic bitch. Find him on Insta at jacobmclean_
Madeline Murphy is an Online Editorial Director at Rowdy Magazine. She can be found curating Spotify playlists, attempting Nigella Lawson recipes and binging The Sopranos. From fashion to social justice, she's fiercely passionate about the power of words. Find her on Instagram @maduhlinemurphy