The Met Gala looks like a ludicrous circus, if you don’t know what it’s about. The celebrity elite dressing in outlandish extravagance and impracticality, just to eat dinner and take pictures in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Tickets are $30,000 a seat, no selfies allowed, and there is one reporter present for every three guests.
The Met Gala is actually a fund-raiser for the support of the museum, which has an operating cost annually of over $300 million. Ticket sales only account for 13 percent of that, and the museum’s $3.1 billion endowments generate another 75%. The Met Gala, almost exclusively, makes up the shortfall. This year, it raised nearly $17 million, allowing it to continue to offer pay-what-you-can admission to all New York residents, making the museum accessible to those who might not otherwise have this resource.
The other aim of the Met Gala is an art exhibition. High fashion, in all its surrealist impracticality, is art. Designers, who are artists, want their work to say something other than “I got dressed to come to this party.” Who they choose to wear their work is a part of that statement.
Every Met Gala has a theme, and “American Independence” was this year’s. Themes are deliberately broad, subject to a thousand nuances of interpretation.
Lil Nas X, for instance, wore a layered costume in all golds – an immense cape representing his closeted self, magnificent but concealing, gleaming armor to represent the security of controlling his image, and beneath that a heavily embroidered gold jumpsuit, representing the freedom he found at last in being open about his sexuality.
Simone Biles, who had to have four men help her carry her 88-pound crystal-covered dress up the stairs, wore a statement about performance, about achieving anything regardless of impediments. It was inspired by the first Black American movie star, Josephine Baker.
With 400 guests at the party (down from its usual 700-800), nearly as many fashion artists got to have their day in the sun. For a first, most of the designers this year were people of color, breaking into an echelon of fashion that has been predominately white.
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