The Met Gala 2020 : About Time...

By Lucy Harbron - 17:47

The Met Gala is fashion prom, it’s fashion Christmas, it’s the biggest day of the fashion calendar and a personal big one for me, sitting pretty marked with a star and a big exclamation mark. My love for fashion has always sat at an intersection, with one leg in vanity and one in academia. Fashion is art, fashion is history, fashion is literature, fashion is politics even, and I think until you draw up the links, none of it makes sense. Without reference, it just boring consumerism. So, while the fashion we see year-round at the golden globes and fashion weeks is great, nothing compares to the Met Gala cause the Met Gala gets it.

Giving its guests almost a year to prepare (making it all the more insulting when men turn up in black suits), the 2020 theme has been announced and I just need a moment to talk about it, ok.

What’s the Met Gala?

If you’re new to the event, roped into excitement by Gaga’s iconic 4 outfit assent, the Met Gala is a charity event that marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume institute that takes place on the first Monday in May. The theme of the exhibition informs the dress for the evening as guests are expected to adopt the spirit and message of the exhibition into their black tie.  It’s been running since 1948 as an event for art and culture’s high flyers, becoming the star-studded, televised event it is now in more recent years as Vogue have taken over the running and guest list of the event.

It’s also an event where we come together to marvel over the intersection of fashion and history, and renew our burning hatred for people who turn up to the event having done literally zero research into the theme and thus completely disrespecting the curation of the event and work of those that organise it *cough* Shawn Mendes and The Kardashians *cough*.

What’s the theme?

The 2020 theme has been announced as About Time: Fashion and Duration. For the first time, rather than outsourcing new garments for the museum, the exhibition will be curated from the archives showcasing a century and a half worth of fashion history in a timeline rather both linear and deeply disruptive.

Each year a designer is invited to be a Co-Chair and this year it’s Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton. I think it’s a good shout, Louis Vuitton no doubt has history and a reputation that’s changed throughout. When I think Louis Vuitton, I think simultaneously of Audrey Hepburn demanding Speedy bags in all sizes, and girls in my hometown clamouring to get good fakes. It’s a brand that’s touched so many different times and places, worthy of its own linear exhibition. The other chairs are Meryl Streep and Emma Stone who I literally couldn’t care less about, and Lin-Manuel Miranda who I think is a nice choice for his contribution to art and history through Hamilton, which probably taught me more American history than school ever did.

But the most important chair; Virginia Woolf. Acting as a ghost narrator to the exhibition, the game-changing author looks down on the event, making it all make sense.

Woolf makes time a character in her work, pioneering this style of narrative that both grapples with and floats on time as she sets Mrs Dalloway in one day, spanning lifetimes and beyond in 24 hours. She seems to suggest that you can see the whole world and more in a day, draws time up as a web or a maze with a million exits and a million and one different paths, weaving in and out as we cross paths with all the different people we could’ve been and all the other people living those lives. To Woolf, time is prominent and deeply deeply important, it’s to be considered and not just lived. The ties between past, present and future demand to be felt, and now in the Met Gala’s efforts, seen.

Why this? Why now?

None of our trends are new. These things don’t fall into being by accident whether shops realise it or not. Our clothes are so tied to our identities that they can’t help but become caught on our collective concerns, our trends become informed by what’s on culture’s mind.

Take the current 1969 revival with our Sharon Tate knee highs and our Butch Cassidy Westerns. It’s no coincidence that as a time of wild uncertainty and fear as Brexit looms and our disillusion grows ever clearer, that our clothes have begun to reflect the end of the summer of love, the end of an era of optimism and start of a dark uncertainty. The politics of 2019 and 1969 are strangely similar, our collective identities tied in a kind of affinity of fear and unknowing, so maybe the length of our trousers and patterns on our boots make a lot more sense.

I think this is the point the theme is getting at, that fashion is undeniably and unavoidably reflective of our present, past and future as we seek references that will make sense for our current climate, looking back to the rebels of the past for present and future revolutions in material.

And I think it’s an especially good pick at the moment. Fashion is messy currently. We’ve got maximalism, minimalism, people vowing to buy nothing while other still buy everything, the queen refusing to wear fur while the Kardashians thoughtlessly buy another Birkin, 50s/60s/70s/80s/90s references like we’re scrambling to find something to hold onto, trying to find a foothold somewhere in history that might give us a sense of security. But with climate change, politics, the new cold war, the internet watching our every move, no one historical trend can help us.

They’ve said the exhibition will be left open-ended as a question mark over a full stop, it makes so much sense when we’ve yet to decide on the legacy we’ll contribute to the timeline they’re building as we speak.

There’s obviously also the question of saving time. We’re at a climate tipping point and it’s being screamed about from both sides as Trump pulls out of the Paris Agreement while Extinction Rebellion spray fake blood on buildings. It would be wrong of the Met to ignore it, and simply posing the question of time and finishing their exhibition with a consideration of sustainability, is a nuanced way to tie it in. It says look at all this history, now consider the importance of our legacy, of clawing back from the cliff edge to allow a century and a half more history to join it, and centuries beyond that. The choice to use archive garments and centring the event around history is in itself an attempt, seeming to be a prompt for celebs to dive into archives over custom new designs, and answer for how sustainably made their garments are. Well, at least it should be for those that bother doing any research.


We’ve got over 5 months till the event that marks the opening of the exhibition, but from the announcement to long after closure, the Met Gala is affecting. Look at the rise of maximalism, of casual glitter and satirical choices following on from last years Notes on Camp theme. With less of a clear visual identity, this theme may be less trackable but it’s definitely going to be there.

For me, I’m going to be looking towards the Woolf era and the Bloomsbury Set with their white dresses and battered tweed. I’ll be looking towards renaissance shapes with surrealist twists, off-setting anything too prim with a touch of confusion. I’ll be looking towards stereotypical historical costume, like the 20s Charleston dress or Victorian corset, redone with a focus on rebellion over the regal or celebratory. I’ll be looking towards labels, with fingers crossed that harsh questions of sustainability and responsibility might make their way onto those iconic steps.

All we can really hope is that the celebs or at least their stylists might pick up a copy of Orlando asap.

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