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What The Hell Happened: The Met Gala Announces 2024 Theme

Kendall Jenner in preparation for the Met Gala in 2021: "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion."
Kendall Jenner in preparation for the Met Gala in 2021: "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion." By Courtesy of VOGUE Taiwan / Wikimedia Commons
By Makenna J. Walko, Contributing Writer

There are few events in fashion — or in pop culture, period — that generate as much anticipation, scrutiny, and widespread buzz as the Met Gala. Even years afterward, controversial and daring designs retain a central place in our cultural memory and continue to generate both controversy and fervor. Who could forget Doja Cat’s 2023 dress by Oscar de la Renta, modeled off of Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette? Or AOC’s 2021 “Tax the Rich” gown, designed by Aurora James in an effort to fuel political discourse? And of course, Kim Kardashian’s head-to-toe black Balenciaga look from 2021 will forever live in infamy.

This year’s Met Gala, which will take place on May 6, is certain to serve up its own buffet of shocking, innovative, and exciting attire for amateur and professional fashion fans alike to dissect. The 2024 theme — “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” — was announced on Nov. 8 and promises some particularly creative looks.

This year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibit — which acts as the inspiration for the Gala’s annual theme — will highlight over 250 items across 400 years of history, organized around three zones: Land, Sea, and Sky. Andrew Bolton, the exhibit’s curator, called it “an ode to nature and the emotional poetics of fashion” in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar. The garments, which have been “reawakened” from the Institute's permanent collection of rarely seen historic items, will appear alongside innovative technology that aims to revive “the smells, sounds, textures and motions” of clothing that can no longer be worn due to delicacy and the need for preservation.

“By appealing to the widest possible range of human senses, the show aims to reconnect with the works on display as they were originally intended — with vibrancy, with dynamism, and ultimately with life,” Bolton said.

The doors that this theme opens are seemingly endless, with a wide range of potential celebrity fashion interpretations to match. Fans of the Met Gala can expect to see at least a handful of people looking like they just rolled out of bed, clad in pajama-inspired outfits that take the theme at face value. Each year, a multitude of celebrities appear in ballgowns of every hue and cut, and this Gala will likely be no exception; doubtless, some will take the “Sleeping Beauty” reference as a nudge toward regency-inspired fashion. Think Billie Eilish circa 2022, Dua Lipa’s 2023 tweed look, and Zendaya’s iconic “Cinderella” dress from 2019.

Others will likely embrace the “Land, Sea, and Sky” angle, perhaps leaning toward sustainable fashion or appearing in designs inspired by the natural world. It would not be surprising to find some AI-influenced looks, with plenty of opportunities to explore the ways innovative modern technology is “reawakening” the fashion industry. And there will almost certainly be some who follow in the Met’s footsteps by reviving archival fashion, either through replicas of iconic pieces or with genuine original garments, Kim Kardashian-style. Last year, in a move that drew considerable criticism from historians, the public, and even the dress’s original designer Bob Mackie, Kardashian appeared in Marilyn Monroe’s famous “Happy Birthday Mr. President” dress.

Overall, there’s no doubt that, whatever form they take, the designs that appear at this year’s Gala are sure to be full of innovation, imagination, and above all, passion for fashion. Until then, mark your calendars for May 6, and “dream” of Elsa Schiaparelli, Yves Saint Laurent, and Christian Dior.

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