Why Do Met Gala Outfits Go Viral? Decoding Fashion’s Biggest Night

The Met Gala is the only fashion event that generates so much online chatter. What is the most talked about topic? The internet will be able to tell if the celebrities who were invited have followed the theme as closely as possible.

The most memorable Met Galas were those that had the most viral moments and were ‘on-theme’. Jared Leto was dressed as Lagerfeld’s famous cat Choupette for last year’s exhibit ‘Karl Lagerfeld A Line of Beauty,’ and the dress code ‘In Honour of Karl’. Lady Gaga wore four different outfits on the Met’s steps for 2019’s “Camp” theme. Rihanna wore a Pope costume in honor of the exhibition ‘Heavenly Bodies – Fashion and Catholic Imagination.

Every year, the same amount of time is spent on those who missed the mark or failed to meet Internet expectations. Twitter went crazy when Karlie Kloss “looked the camp in the eye”. Although it is all in good humor, it can’t help but feel that it flattens true fashion criticism and appreciation.

Xh F5slY0PYohOUUkdHsIk1 QvZg29NCrB9URD5jq2E7Zqs0rfSTJCAHRtbiGBhwMuNnkYe0e8w59bLUKKzbV3tlkLRxHDU9uaEcqF UGEEZE52NKGrp 8PsM2Mtj431HJeypFtHdAwY8vktJCwN0jY
Rihanna at the 2023 Met Gala / GettyImages

Image may contain Lady Gaga Clothing Dress Formal Wear Fashion Gown Adult Person Electronics and Mobile Phone

Lady Gaga at the 2019 Met Gala. Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

The celebrities’ desire to go viral and their obsession with themes has made the Met Gala commentary a machine where there is little room for nuance. This commentary is also done by magazines and websites like Vogue, but their stories tend to be less focused on quick-hits memes, and more focused on showcasing designers, celebrities, and their stories.

Dress codes for the Met Gala can be esoteric. This is why many attendees get them wrong. But they are important reminders of the Met Gala, not only fashion but also the Costume Institute’s annual exhibition. Dress codes allow each night to be different from the previous one, and the Met Gala stands out as the only red carpet that is ripe for fashion storytelling.

The Met Gala theme is not mandatory or compulsory. It’s a suggestion for guests to dress up and be dazzling.

Met Gala 101

Quick history lesson: The Met Gala started in 1948, when Eleanor Lambert, a publicist who founded the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) in 1962, decided to host a benefit dinner for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. It was held in a city other than the museum. Diana Vreeland took over the Met Gala in 1971 and transformed it into a glamorous and glitzy affair. She hosted it at the museum and introduced themes. She also invited celebrities like Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, and Elton John. Anna Wintour took over the Met Gala in 1995, when she was editor-in-chief of Vogue, and creative director at Conde Nast. Every year, the Met Gala is a glitzy and monumental event that takes place on the first of May.

It wasn’t until recent years that guests began to follow the dress code. Amber Valletta, the model, said on Vogue’s podcast ‘The Run-Through,’ that people had been trickling into the event with small versions of the theme. “And suddenly, it became a costumes ball”, Valletta recalled. She was in New York filming Hitch at the time Wintour invited. She said, “I want you to go for it,” and the Vogue styling team helped me. But I remember making a few sharp and sarcastic remarks. It was that I was going all the way, and no one else was.”

Image may contain Amber Valletta Hōchiyama Kōkan Person Clothing Footwear High Heel Shoe Adult and Dress

Photo by Gregory Pace / FilmMagic

Some themes don’t require a costume. Celebrities and the designer brands that dress them (each house pays for a gala table and invites its ambassadors, current models, or muse to dress) may choose to align their efforts with the brand’s newest collection or current storytelling. For example, Louis Vuitton dressed their ambassadors up in vintage looks for the Met 2022. Some may choose to showcase the celebrity’s personal style, in line with the brand’s. Kristen Stewart wore Chanel menswear last year.

The Garden of Time this year refers to the naturalistic and archival elements of the exhibition as well as a 1962 short story by JG. Ballard is about a count, his wife, and their idyllic villa of beauty and ease overlooking a beautiful garden. If not everyone is wearing a floral or an archive piece this year, are they considered a miss by those online?

Internet of all things

The commentary is in order. Every year there are celebrations, critiques, and articles about the opulence. A dress code is the most simple and straightforward way to judge a look. This yay or nay content requires little fashion knowledge and is easy to produce and consume. This is a perfect storm that reflects the current state of pop-culture commentary.

Before Instagram and TikTok, those of us who commented online talked about the Met. However, posts did not travel as well on Tumblr or blogs, so you would have to wait days to read the entire digest (remember Fashion Spot?) The Met was not taken seriously, nor was the commentary. It was often based on media reports, rather than what was found online.

Miley Cyrus, who was a huge part of the 2014 ‘Punk” theme, generated a lot more discussion. By 2015, Rihanna was the most talked about Met Gala guest. Her yellow Guo Pei jacket filled the entire Met staircase.

Fashion literacy can make us too literal

It is a problem that the internet has become the Met dress code police because it leaves little room for subtle interpretations, which are what make fashion so fascinating to observe. The ‘Camp’ Met Gala was so captivating because the theme was as exacting as possible, but left room for interpretation. It was based on a complex academic concept.

We now live in an age of “method dress”, first introduced by Zendaya and her stylist Law Roach. They used it to promote their films on the red carpet — from Spiderman and Dune to Challengers and Challengers. Last year, it reached a fever pitch on Margot Robbie’s Barbie press tour. This style of celebrity dress is directly related to the Met dress code obsession. It’s easy to understand, thematic, and literal: is that dress tennis green? Does this look like a Barbie reissue in disguise? Rihanna’s dress as a Pope is not a reason for everyone to show up in costume at the Met.

It’s a fact that major events such as the Met and the Oscars also serve as a showcase for the massive marketing efforts of brands. Should you prioritize your own marketing efforts over a theme if you have something you want to promote? Valentino dressed Sebastian Stan and Glenn Close for the 2022 Met Gala in Pink PP to match its pink marketing campaign for autumn 2022. It would have been fun to see Valentino riff on the Gilded Glamour theme within the confines of the commercial push.

Image may contain Zendaya Fashion Adult Person Clothing Footwear High Heel Shoe Premiere and Red Carpet
Zendaya in a tennis dress by Thom Browne.  Lia Toby/Getty Images

Image may contain Sebastian Stan Person Standing Adult Clothing Formal Wear Suit Camera Electronics and Accessories

Sebastian Stan at the 2022 Met Gala. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

image 5

Margot Robbie in a Barbie getup / Getty Images

Billie Eilish’s and Oscar de la Renta’s agreement the previous year to not use fur could be a good example. This look is a nod towards Marilyn Monroe, a fashion icon from the United States.

Two things, I believe, are driving our collective obsession with this theme. A dress code is a great way to get people involved in the conversation. Fashion fans also love dreamy, fantastical looks. The Met Gala is a night every year when we can be assured that fashion will be at its most outlandish and creative. Since the pandemic, collections have become more commercial and pragmatic. Designers are less likely to present clothing for the sake of capital “Fashion”, and instead focus on what they plan to sell in their stores. For one night, our industry will allow us to dream. Maybe the internet commentariat needs to adjust their expectations and embrace this fantasy.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button