FAITH + FASHION
The Met Gala 2018
by Fiona Clarke
The Met Gala is an annual philanthropic event for the benefit of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum (a.k.a.“The Met”) Costume Institute. Marking the grand opening of the annual blockbuster fashion exhibition, The Gala celebrates the theme of that year’s Costume Institute show, setting the tone for décor, entertainment and inspiring the attendees’ choice of formal attire.
Widely regarded as one of the most exclusive social events in New York as well as the largest fundraising nights in the city, The Met Gala also is considered to be the fashion industry’s premier annual red-carpet event; photographed, reviewed, critiqued and emulated worldwide.
Always held on the first Monday in May, the most famous faces from the realms of fashion, film, music, art and high-society come together to raise money for the Met’s Costume Institute and celebrate the grand opening of its latest exhibition.
In The Beginning
Founded by publicist Eleanor Lambert, the benefit was first held in 1948 to encourage donations from New York’s high society. In 1978 the torch was passed to socialite Patricia Buckley who, as chair, made it a major event on the charity social circle.
The international fashion crowd entered the equation in 1983 with the Yves Saint Laurent Exhibition, which was masterminded by Diana Vreeland, then a special consultant to the Costume Institute. Combined with the explosion of Wall Street money in the late ‘80s and the shift in fundraising focus from cultural institutions to schools and hospitals, the profile of the typical Met Gala attendee began to evolve from the traditional society names toward newer personalities.
Left: Rihanna/ MAISON MARGIELA by JOHN GALLIANO.
The credit for elevating The Gala to the undisputed party of the year on the New York social schedule goes to Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Since taking over as chair in 1995, she has been the driving force behind the transformation from a well-attended dinner for museum donors and patrons into one of the biggest fundraisers staged by any of the city’s cultural institutions, as well as providing unprecedented global exposure to the fashion industry.
Make no mistake, Wintour is in charge. She alone enlists notable public figures to serve as co-chairs and oversees the benefits committee. Under her watchful eye the Met Gala is strictly an invite-only event, reportedly giving her the final say as to who is eligible to attend. Along with her hand-selected team, she finalizes the seating plan, controls media coverage — deciding which reporters are allowed to go where — and, often, even what selected guests will wear.
It took Met curator Andrew Bolton several years to convince the Vatican to give its blessing to Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, the 2018 exhibition that explores divine inspiration in fashion. The exhibit features some 40 Vatican vestments and accessories spanning 15 papacies.
By placing items such as Pope Benedict XV’s white silk cape embroidered with gold thread and the pointed bishop’s hat of Pope Leo XIII alongside designer pieces by Coco Chanel, John Galliano, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Donatella Versace, the influence of religious and liturgical clothing on fashion is vividly presented.
Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination is being cited as The Met’s most controversial exhibition yet. Bolton, however, has defended his curation: “Some might consider fashion to be an unfitting or unseemly medium by which to engage with ideas about the sacred or the divine, but dress is central to any discussion about religion,” he explained at a recent press conference. “It affirms religious allegiances and, by extension, it asserts religious differences.”
A Star-Studded Evening
On May 7, after a jaw-dropping red-carpet on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s iconic stairs, the night continued with a cocktail hour. Guests then had the opportunity to explore the new exhibition before its official opening to the public. The celebration continued with dinner and dancing in the Museum’s Temple of Dendur where guests were treated to a surprise performance by Madonna, who opened her set with a rendition of her hit, “Like A Prayer”.
This year’s dress code was a challenge. To succeed on this red carpet required honoring the theme of Catholicism in fashion without poking fun of religion. It took not just beauty, but bravery and a leap of faith.
Rihanna attacked this theme with her signature fearlessness. Appearing as a female Pope in John Galliano’s creation, she wore an embellished mini dress under a matching cloak, accessorized with a pointed mitre, stiletto heels and pearls strung around one ankle because, after all, there’s not always room for a rosary in a clutch bag.
Halo headpieces were prominent. The word halo means glory and glorious they were atop Solange Knowles in Iris Van Herpen, Lily Collins in Givenchy, Rose Huntington-Whiteley in Ralph Lauren and Amber Heard in Carolina Herrera.
Katy Pery was golden in Versace. Complete with a six-foot white feathered wingspan, she represented the archangel Gabriel. Conversely, Kate Moss wore a black dress with a feathered black neckline, a nod to the dress code of a fallen-angel, perhaps to signify the drug scandal which banned her from the U.S. for so many years.
Frances McDormand consolidated her role as 2018’s designated maverick by coming as “a pagan”, she said on the red carpet, in her Valentino butterfly headdress. A clear winner on this is the mozzetta, a short shoulder-covering cape worn by the pope and cardinals and by a very chic Alicia Vikander in Louis Vuitton.
Those lucky enough to make the 2018 invite list forked out $30,000 for an individual ticket. For better or worse, everyone was noticed. If you’re hoping to score an invite to next year’s Met Gala, consider the extras; designer gown, jewels, footwear and purse, professional hair and makeup styling, limo service and a stay at one of New York’s five-star hotels to prep for your grand entrance…well, you best arrange a bank loan in advance.
But take comfort knowing that, thanks to the generous sponsors and co-chairs, all the proceeds from ticket sales go directly to a worthy cause – The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. : :