If there was ever an event for celebrities to pull sartorial moves that make waves across social media, it’s the Met Gala. Of course, there were some great looks that nailed the theme, and many who decidedly did not. For me, there were two specific moments that actually made me think beyond a dress or an opulent night in Manhattan. So before we close out the Met Gala 2022 chatter for good, here are some thoughts.
Let’s start with the ever-controversial stylings of Kim Kardashian. When she stepped out on Monday's carpet wearing the exact dress Marilyn Monroe famously wore in 1959 to sing "Happy Birthday Mr. President" to JFK, people were talking. While at first, the move seemed intriguing, fashion and costume historians quickly jumped on social media to express their unhappiness with the choice.
Madelief Hohé, curator of fashion & costume at Kunstmuseum Den Haag, explained why in a post on Instagram: "Wearing historic clothing damages it. Full stop. A 60 year old embellished silk dress is going to have problems, weak spots,” Hohé wrote. “And Kim is certainly putting on products, lotions, creams, perfumes, body make-up etc, all of which will further damage it. Don’t even get me started on her struggling to walk up the stairs in her clear platform stilettos, stepping on the hem."
The dress is owned by the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which loaned it to Kardashian for the event. And the risks for ruining the gown were certainly high enough to warrant the concern. I think what it comes down to is this: what is an archival piece that can be reworn in a way that is respectful to its creator and to (us) the viewer, and what is a piece of history that should be respected as such. Arguably, this dress is a consequential piece of American history, one that was marked that way by Monroe herself. According to Ripley’s, costume designer Jean Louis claimed that Monroe said, "I want you to design a truly historical dress, a dazzling dress that's one-of-a-kind, a dress that only Marilyn Monroe could wear.”
Apparently, someone else felt they could wear it too.
The irony is that the whole point of the Met Gala is to honor the ways in which fashion is a part of our lives. Garments can frame a moment in time in a way that words simply cannot, and preserving them for future generations is important. Vintage on the carpet is great, but potentially damaging an important piece of art? Maybe not.
This leads me to the next moment that was arguably much quieter than Kardashian’s dress. Billie Eilish wore a custom Gucci gown that, according to her interview with Vogue, was used with already existing textiles.
In the video, Eilish tells Emma Chamberlain, “This is all existing Gucci materials.” She goes on, “This is all vintage jewelry so, like, nothing was wasted.” Then Chamberlain adds, “It’s like thrifting but for the Met! Are you a thrifter?” To which Eilish replies, “I’ve only thrifted.”
This seems like a cute and short exchange between two very famous people, but for me, it stuck out as an exciting development. The fact that Eilish (while maybe not speaking totally accurately since her shoes were new) discussed garment waste at all was kind of huge. I also found it interesting that it wasn’t some sort of big capital “S” sustainability play, it was just a part of the story of the dress. Her influence is huge, and hopefully her fans will pick up on the waste chat and want to know more.
Ok, yes, that’s all for Met coverage. Back to your regularly scheduled programming next week.
Thank you for reading!!