Fashion as an art form: the Met Gala

Caroline Hendrix, Staff Writer

Clothing presumably started as a way to protect the body from the elements, but in modern culture fashion is used as a form of both cultural and individual expression. The evolution of fashion trends over time has anthropological significance and can lend a hand in understanding historical and cultural contexts. The Met Gala tips its hat to this idea by deciding a costume theme for the grandiose event. The biggest public figures — from actors to athletes — dress up to match a certain time period or cultural setting. On September 13, the Met Gala dove into the theme of “American Independence.” This Met Gala reminded me not only of what the event means for fashion, but also its significance in a world with stark political differences and COVID.

The fact that clothing has the ability to reinforce confidence and comfortability makes it so much more than just any other material item, and I don’t think fashion should be looked at as silly or unimportant. The fashion industry is ingrained in our world; both holding the largest portion of the global workforce and accounting for an impressive amount of pollution. Moreover, fashion has power and it gives voice. The Met Gala exists in a sense to keep fashion alive, at least at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Though the true purpose of the Met Gala is not as evident for those that do not attend. In fact, until I did some research I had never given a second thought to what happens inside the Met. While the red carpet steals the show and is where the viewers’ night ends, it is only the beginning of the night for attendees. The true significance of the Met Gala is related to what happens within those Met doors. The New York Times explains that the purpose of the gala is to raise money for the Costume Institute of the Met, which funds itself because many question whether or not fashion is an art form. However, the creativity and meaning that goes into the works of clothing that we saw on the red carpet beg to differ. 

Fashion can be used to send a message. All you have to do is just look at this years Met Gala attendees who took advantage of the media’s focus on the red carpet to make important statements in ways that I have not seen in the past. One example is United States Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dress, which read “Tax the rich.” Carolyn Maloney wore a cape over her dress that read, “Equal Rights for Women.” As it is used here, fashion is evidently a form of activism and the integrity of clothing as artwork should not be doubted. While I love the glitz and glamour of the Met Gala, a gala should not be the sole source of funding for the Costume Institute at the Met. Fashion can speak beyond words and beyond paint on a canvas. It is an art form we all can partake in whether or not Anna Wintour invites us to the red carpet or not, and its presence at the Met should not be conditional. 

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