Theme for 2020 Met Gala Revealed, and it’s ‘About Time’

Tilda as Orlando
Tilda Swinton as the titular character in 'Orlando', based on the Virginia Woolf novel and a major inspiration for the 2020 Met Gala. Courtesy of the artist.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced next year’s theme for their annual Met Gala, and I’d bet my britches designers are already drawing up plans for who they’re going to dress and how they’re going to dress them. The theme is “About Time: Fashion and Duration”, and the accompanying Costume Institute exhibition will tell a history of fashion from 1870–the year the Met was incorporated–to now. It’s apropos, as the Met is celebrating it’s 150th birthday, so I’d take another gamble that this upcoming Gala may be one of the biggest it’s ever had.

The curator of the exhibition, Andrew Bolton, describes it as “a reimagining of fashion history that’s fragmented, discontinuous, and heterogeneous.” Which likely means that we’ll be seeing a lot of displays that discuss the circular nature of fashion, but that also create a narrative of progression through the ages. For the gala, major fashion houses might be expected to bring back classic, signature looks and revamp them into more contemporary pieces–much like they do on a regular basis–but with even more drama. In a few months we’ll have best and worst dressed lists up for everyone to gawk at, but until then, we can only imagine what they’re cooking up for the red carpet.

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Ariana Grande, at the 2018 Met Gala wearing a Vera Wang dress that is literally just ‘The Last Judgement’ from the Sistine Chapel.

There’s a lot of latitude for this theme, and I hope the guests will opt for remixed historical costumes that tell a story, rather just something pretty and retro. If we’re to expect tributes to go as far back as 1870, it would be interesting to see if designers remember what was happening in the U.S. in the late 19th C., and can figure out how to fold that into the elaborately draped skirts worn by the era’s upper class ladies. It was a critical period for American expansion, as the exploration of the west and the rise of robber baron empires saw to irreversible changes in the nation’s territory and culture.

I could go on about the exact historical events that defined the movement into the 20th Century. So, let’s just say that if anyone can come up with a costume that say, pays homage to Susan B. Anthony or Frederick Douglass, references the contributions by and treatment of Chinese laborers in the railroad industry, or discusses to the destruction of Native American lives and culture at the hands of the U.S. government, then color me pleased.

What’s more likely is that there will probably be outfits that take the theme too literally. Like maybe a gown or twenty with the melting clocks of Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”.

The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dali, 1931
The Persistence of Memory, by Salvador Dali, 1931. Now picture this as a tux.

The theme was also heavily inspired by Virginia Woolf, her novel about time-travel, Orlando, and the film that was based on it. If Tilda Swinton, who starred in the film, showed up in one of the costumes, I would be thrilled. Quotes from Woolf’s other works regarding time will be woven into the exhibit as well. You can anticipate a melange of colors, shapes, and designs all coming together to convey the fashion and art world’s understanding of the time-space continuum.

The gala’s co-chairs are: Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emma Stone, Meryl Streep, and Anna Wintour. The event is held the first Monday of May, which means in 2020 it will be on May 4th, which is also Star Wars day. While I doubt those two would conflict, a nerd like me can hope that someone shows up in a haute couture Wookie costume.

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