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Garden of Time: What to know about this year’s Met Gala

By Rachel Douglass


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Kendall Jenner in Prada at Met Gala 2022. Credits: Prada.

The Met Gala has become one of the biggest and most highly anticipated fashion events of the year, bringing in a slew of celebrities and public figures to the steps of the New York institution, each one donning the year’s pre-conceived theme. Ahead of this year’s event, taking place as always on the first Monday of May, FashionUnited has gathered everything you need to know in preparation.

What is this year’s theme?

The dress code for this year, ‘The Garden of Time’, takes inspiration from J.G. Ballard’s short story of the same name, a dystopian novel about a couple living a decadent lifestyle that they are ultimately forced to bring to an end.

While the dress code leaves a wide scope of both literal and figurative opportunities for attendees, it also neatly ties into The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s coinciding exhibition, ‘Sleeping Beauty: Reawakening Fashion’, in which 250 historically significant pieces deemed too fragile to be worn again are to be put on display. Running until September 2, 2024, the exhibition will explore the notions of rebirth and renewal, using nature as a metaphor for the impermanence of fashion.

Who is co-hosting? What is their role?

For each edition, a selection of A-listers take on the role of co-hosts alongside Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue who has chaired or co-chaired the Gala since 1995. This year, the incredibly stylish co-host line-up includes Bad Bunny, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Lopez and Zendaya, the latter two having been highly anticipated statement-makers in previous years.

Bad Bunny, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Hemsworth and Zendaya. Credits: (From left) Apple Music, Intimissimi, Boss and Valentino.

The quartet are responsible for helping to choose the theme, guest list, food and decor, while further aiding in fundraising, promotion and publicity efforts prior to and during the event. As the evening commences, they will welcome guests onto the red carpet and, while not confirmed for this year, some past co-hosts have also been known to later perform.

Who will be attending?

The annual guest list for the Met Gala typically remains tightly under wraps in the run up to the event, however a rumoured list is sometimes leaked ahead of time – note that this often doesn’t confirm a star’s attendance. Among the names speculated to show up this year are Margot Robbie, Jenna Ortega, Lana Del Rey and Taylor Swift. Among the wagered men are Cillian Murphy, Pedro Pascal, BTS’s Kim Taehyung, Tom Holland and Jeremy Allen White.

There are also a number of regulars that can typically be expected, including members of the Kardashian clan, favoured Vogue presenter Emma Chamberlain, red carpet head-turner Rihanna and model siblings Gigi and Bella Hadid.

Rihanna in Guo Pei at Met Gala 2015. Credits: Archive image.

What is the Met Gala?

By now, some of you may be thinking: “What is the Met Gala exactly?” Well, we’re here to help with this too. While it may appear at first glance that the Gala is simply an opportunity for celebrities to dress up, the event is actually an annual charity fundraiser held by the museum, reportedly raising millions for its Costume Institute. Tickets to attend cost around 35,000 dollars each, while tables range from 200,000 to 300,000 dollars.

Cara Delevingne in Dior at the Met Gala 2021. Credits: Courtesy of Dior.

The elaborate themes carved out for attendees are a large part of why such an impressive number of global stars, A-listers and celebrities opt to show up, each one tasked with interpreting the dress code in their own way, making it the perfect opportunity to push their sense of fashion to the limits.

How did it come to be?

The Met Gala found its beginning in 1948, when fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert established the concept in an initiative aiming to boost money for the, at the time, newly-founded Costume Institute. The first event, promoted as the “Party of the Year”, was held as a supper, with initial prices starting off at 50 dollars each.

Then, in the early 1970s, former editor-in-chief of Vogue, Diana Vreeland, stepped in as a special consultant to the Costume Institute and began making changes to the Gala, introducing new galleries to the format and matching the themes to the coinciding exhibitions. Vreeland was also the first to make the shift towards a celebrity-clad guest list, an idea that was only further enhanced when Wintour took the position of chair in 1995.

What are some of the most memorable past themes?

Guests at Met Gala 2018. Credits: H&M.

Last year’s theme saw attendees pay tribute to the late designer Karl Lagerfeld, who was at the forefront of the Met’s exhibition that year, following a similar homage to other designers, such as Gianni Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Dior, who have each had their own spotlight on the Gala steps. However, as evidenced by this year’s dress code, there is typically not a singular individual at the helm of recognition. In fact, usually the dress codes and exhibitions take the form of an iconic movement in fashion.

Memorable themes have included 2006’s ‘Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion’, 2013’s ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’, 2015’s ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’ and the ever-popular 2016 ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’, where Rihanna infamously stole the show in a John Galliano headpiece, cape and bodysuit combo.

Rihanna at Met Gala 2018. Credits: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images North America / AFP.

What have been some of the best/most controversial looks in the past?

It wasn’t just this look that secured Rihanna’s position at the top of the most anticipated guests at the Gala, and garnered her a reputation of always perfectly executing the theme. Since becoming a regular, the singer has turned out look-after-incredible-look each year – her flowing Guo Pei cape in 2015 or her 2017 Comme des Garçons piece, being just some of them. She isn’t the only attendee who has caused a stir, however.

Zendaya has also become known for her theatrical wares, having previously taken to the steps in a wondrous floral Dolce & Gabbana gown in 2017, a Versace armour getup in 2018 and a magical light-up Cinderella look by Tommy Hilfiger in 2019. Such theatrics are integral to the participation of other guests, including Jared Lato who, when not appearing as Karl Largerfeld’s cat (his look for last year), takes to the floor in Gucci attire while holding his own severed head [2019]. Another to provide is Lady Gaga, whose 2019 entrance for the ‘Camp: Notes on Fashion’ theme saw her transform the higher she ascended the steps, melodramatically shedding a series of Brandon Maxwell looks.

Lady Gaga at Met Gala 2019. Credits: Lady Gaga: Neilson Barnard / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP.

Others, meanwhile, lean towards the more controversial side. Kim Kardashian, for example, has caused a raucous, or two. In 2019, the reality star showed up alongside her then-husband Kanye West in an hourglass Mugler look, that gave her the soaked appearance of an impossibly small waist. She was joined again by West in 2021 sporting a black Balenciaga morph suit-type piece that left her almost unrecognisable, aside from her staple curvy silhouette. Kardashian then continued to cause a stir in 2022, when she took to the carpet in a gown once worn by Marilyn Monroe, igniting fierce debates online about the condition of the iconic dress.

Looking further back, other renowned looks have included, but are not limited to, Dita von Tesse’s figure-hugging Zac Posen gown in 2014; Sarah Jessica Parker’s tartan punk-look which she donned hand-in-hand with its designer Alexander McQueen in 2006; Princess Diana’s classic Dior number for the event’s 1996 edition; and model Naomi Campbell’s dazzling Versace dress, worn in 1995.

Image: AFP Forum, AFP Dimitrios Kambouris - Kim Kardashian at MET Gala 2022
Rihanna in Valentino at the Met Gala 2023. Credits: ANGELA WEISS / AFP
Sarah Jessica Parker at Met Gala 2018. Credits: Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images North America / AFP.
Doja Cat wearing Oscar de la Renta at the Met Gala 2023. Image: Messika
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