The countdown for the Met Gala 2024 is on! Last Wednesday, November 8th, the Costume Institute (the host of the famed event), announced that the theme for the exhibit will be Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion. No, not like Princess Aurora from the Disney movie. Sleeping Beauties as in items within the Institute’s 33,000-piece archive that are too delicate to ever be worn again.
With the announcement, some speculated that this particular theme was inspired by Kim Kardashian’s wearing of Marilyn Monroe’s “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” dress to the 2022 gala. While that is a juicy theory, neither the curator, Andrew Bolton, nor the famed perennial party planner, Anna Wintour, would ever publicly comment on such a rumor. The theme draws upon iconic pieces from designers such as Alexander McQueen and Christian Dior that have evolved past wearability into items purely for aesthetic purposes–aka pieces of art.
This has long been a debate within the fashion industry as to whether fashion can be art. Some designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier or the late Karl Lagerfeld (and the focus of this past year’s theme) say no, that fashion is purely a commercial effort. One of the designers to be showcased, the late and great Elsa Schiaparelli, would say otherwise. Her body of work coincided with the Surrealist movement in the 1920s-1940s and featured artists such as Salvador Dalí in many of her designs.
While this is an ongoing debate within the fashion community, the exhibition will highlight the moments in which designers’ work surpasses utility as the items decay into fragility. Many pieces will be laid in glass cases, appearing like Princess Aurora for museum goers after the Gala. Due to the state of some of these items, Bolton and the Institute are getting creative by incorporating other senses and technologies to bring viewers into the world of the archive. These senses include smell, sight, texture, and sound to reanimate these delicate pieces. To further capture audiences’ imaginations, the Institute will utilize artificial intelligence, computer-generated imagery, augmented reality, x-rays, video animation, light projection, and soundscapes.
This may be Bolton’s most ambitious theme to date. As he shared in the documentary, First Monday In May, he is always seeking to outdo himself. Considering the goal of the event and the exhibition is to raise money for the Institute, the pressure must be immense; but he seems to carry it gracefully. And it probably helps to have some generous sponsors like TikTok, Loewe (pronounced loo-whey-vay), and Condé Nast. Co-hosts for the Met Gala 2024 have yet to be announced, but stay tuned!