The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opened in April 1870 so next year the Met celebrates its 150th anniversary and many of its exhibits will commemorate the milestone. Which means the Costume Institute Gala, aka the Met Gala, will also be a birthday party on the first Monday in May 2020. It’s a big one. Well, the Met Gala is always a big one – but especially big next year because of the museum’s 150th, the Costume Institute’s theme also has to work with the museum’s greater celebration. In other words, this would not be the year to go for a super-specific theme, like Comme Des Garcons and Rei Kawakubo or even this past year’s theme on Camp. For 2020 then, the Costume Institute will be looking back, at, and forward on fashion through time. The theme is About Time: Fashion and Duration.
Andrew Bolton, Curator of the Costume Institute, describes this year’s exhibit as “a reimagining of fashion history that’s fragmented, discontinuous, and heterogeneous” and that the inspiration came from the 1992 film Orlando, directed by Sally Potter and starring Tilda Swinton, based on Virginia Woolf’s book, practically mandatory reading in any Fem Lit course in university, at least when I was in university. I’ve not read it since third year but if the story is what I remember of it, this is a really promising beginning for what we might see both at the exhibit and on the night of the gala – if people do their homework.
Orlando is our gender non-conforming protagonist, born a man, becomes a woman, whose life spans multiple centuries as she’s witness to history, is present for the present, and is a symbol for the future. As you can see, there are all kinds of ways to interpret this, to build this into an outfit. I mean, obviously, Katy Perry is still going to show up as grandfather clock because no one is more literal about a theme than Katy Perry, but identity is also in play here – fluidity of identity, a broader understanding of what is female and what is male, and of course, how identities can be layered, how identities continue to evolve. So we might see the red carpet as an exploration of time and of gender.
Other fashion possibilities – a basic example is the prairie dress. A hundred years ago it was for schoolteachers. Now it’s runway and red carpet. Or consider McQueen’s archive, the controversial Highland collection and where that comes from. What would you pair a pair of his “bumsters” pants with if you were connecting 1995/6ish to 1896?
Or, you know, Virginia Woolf cosplay would totally be on theme – but then again, when hasn’t Virginia Woolf been a style icon? If Nicole Kidman showed up in her costume from The Hours, with the nose, would that be covering two Met Gala themes? It’s both Virginia Woolf AND Camp.
I’m excited. I’m excited to yell at the lazy f-cks who show up with a pocket-watch clutch and call it a day and I’m excited about, say, Sarah Jessica Parker and Janelle Monae and Rihanna, the ones who are thoughtful and dependable Met Gala regulars, who understand and honour the spirit of a theme.
As for the co-chairs this year, it’ll be Emma Stone, because Louis Vuitton sponsored the exhibit and she’s an LV ambassador, LV creative head Nicolas Ghesquiere, and Lin-Manuel Miranda whose masterpiece, Hamilton, is right on theme – because what work better bridges history with the present while contemplating the future?
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?”
And then there’s Meryl Streep. She’s co-chairing the Met Gala and it’ll be her first ever Met Gala. Fitting in a couple of ways – Meryl was in The Hours which was based on Mrs Dalloway and of course there’s Meryl and Anna Wintour, Meryl and The Devil Wears Prada. If Anne Hathaway shows up and stays at Meryl’s side all night, whispering research in her ears, I’m pretty sure Twitter would end itself.