In years past, today, the first Monday in May would typically find our eyes trained on the steps of Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as we waited to see what incredible ensembles the celebrity set would be wearing at the annual Met Gala. Unfortunately, for the second May in a row, we’ll be waiting for those stars to safely align, as the Met Gala has been tentatively rescheduled as a two-part exhibition, kicked off by “a more intimate” version of The Met Gala (officially named the Costume Institute Benefit) on Monday, Sept. 13.
Nevertheless, the Costume Institute wasn’t entirely dark this first Monday in May. In fact, far from it, as we members of the press were treated to our own preview of the upcoming exhibit—as well as learning the identities of this year’s co-chairs, four young talents who’ve all proven themselves as fashion forward as they come. Along with musician and British Vogue June cover star Billie Eilish and the always boundary-pushing Timothée Chalamet will be tennis star Naomi Osaka and inaugural poet and, confirming some pre-announcement buzz, American Vogue May cover star Amanda Gorman. The latter two stars are closely following in the well-heeled footsteps of previous Met Gala co-chairs Serena Williams and Rihanna. Filmmaker Melina Matsoukas (Lemonade, Queen & Slim) was also commissioned to create an “open-ended film to project in the galleries, the content of which will evolve over the course of the exhibition,” read a press release provided to The Glow Up.
More on this year’s event and exhibition, which is produced in partnership wit Instagram with additional support from Condé Nast:
The Costume Institute’s next major exhibition will be a two-part show on view from September 18, 2021 through September 5, 2022. Part One, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion—opening in the Anna Wintour Costume Center on September 18, 2021—will celebrate The Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary and explore a modern vocabulary of American fashion. Part Two, In America: An Anthology of Fashion—opening in the American Wing period rooms on May 5, 2022—will explore the development of American fashion by presenting narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of those spaces. Parts One and Two will close on September 5, 2022.
The co-chairs for Part Two of The Met Gala, which will take place on May 2, 2022, have yet to be announced, but the virtual press presentation seemed to indicate that we can expect diverse representation throughout the galleries. Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute Andrew Bolton explained how this year’s theme would manifest while flanked by two vibrant designs from legendary designer Stephen Burrows; another segment featured a ballgown from Vice President Kamala Harris’ inaugural designer and 2019 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner (as well as 2020 CFDA Emerging Designer and 2021 The Glow Up 50 honoree) Christopher John Rogers, as well as a Pendleton-crafted cape from designer Andre Walker and a pointed fashion statement from acclaimed designer Prabal Gurung, who is Nepalese.
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“Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural shifts and a record of the forces, beliefs, and events that shape our lives,” said Max Hollein, the Marina Kellen French Director of The Met. “This two-part exhibition will consider how fashion reflects evolving notions of identity in America and will explore a multitude of perspectives through presentations that speak to some of the complexities of history with powerful immediacy. In looking at the past through this lens, we can consider the aesthetic and cultural impact of fashion on historical aspects of American life.”
To do this, The Met has reimagined fashion through the lens of American home life—though whose idea of American home remains relatively ambiguous. More from The Met on Part One—In America: A Lexicon of Fashion:
The Costume Institute’s Anna Wintour Costume Center galleries will feature a fictional American home constructed of transparent walls that intersect and overlap, blurring the boundaries of the interior rooms. Examples of 20th- and 21st-century fashion will populate the rooms, reflecting the customs and behaviors of the imagined occupants. Designs by pioneers of American sportswear will be displayed alongside works by a diverse group of contemporary designers to illustrate a shifting emphasis in American fashion defined by feelings of fear, delight, comfort, anxiety, well-being, loneliness, happiness, belonging, self-reflection, and self-representation, among other qualities.
“Over the past year, because of the pandemic, the connections to our homes have become more emotional, as have those to our clothes,” Bolton noted. “For American fashion, this has meant an increased emphasis on sentiment over practicality. Responding to this shift, Part One of the exhibition will establish a modern vocabulary of American fashion based on the expressive qualities of clothing as well as deeper associations with issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Part Two will further investigate the evolving language of American fashion through a series of collaborations with American film directors who will visualize the unfinished stories inherent in The Met’s period rooms.”
As noted in the press release, “the American Wing houses 21 period rooms spanning some 300 years, now interpreted through more expansive and inclusive narratives that foreground gender, race, and class.” More on Part Two, In America: An Anthology of Fashion:
Part Two of the exhibition will feature women’s and men’s historical and contemporary dress dating from the 18th century to the present in vignettes installed in select period rooms. The interiors present a survey of more than 300 years of American domestic life and tell a variety of stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological. The exhibition will reflect on these narratives through a series of three-dimensional cinematic “freeze frames” produced in collaboration with notable American film directors. These mise-en-scènes will explore the role of dress in shaping American identity and address the complex and layered histories of the rooms.
Of special interest to us will be a display featuring the designs of Fannie Criss, a little known but highly regarded local dressmaker active at the turn of the last century, whose designs will be shown in a recreated 19th-century parlor from Richmond, Virginia. Another tableau will reimagine the historic 1973 “Battle of Versailles”—which featured Burrows and a bevy of iconic Black models including Bethann Hardison and Pat Cleveland, among others—set against John Vanderlyn’s 1819 mural of the famed palace.
The behind-the-scenes crew is equally intriguing, as working with veteran Costume Institute film production designers Nathan Crowley and Shane Valentino of LAMB Design Studio will be cinematographer Bradford Young (Selma, Arrival, and When They See Us). As previously reported by The Glow Up, film exec and founder of The Black List Franklin Leonard will serve as an advisor on the exhibition.
Updated: 5/3/21 at 7:15 p.m., E.T.: Courtesy of Vogue, we now know the dress code for the September event will be: “American Independence.” This should be interesting...