What does the 2024 Met Gala theme ‘Sleeping Beauties’ actually mean?

The 2024 exhibit will run from 10 May to 2 September

Kaleigh Werner
New York
Monday 06 May 2024 08:37 BST
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No – celebrities won’t be wearing pajamas at the 2024 Met Gala.

On 8 Novemeber 2023, Vogue announced the theme of The Costume Institute’s 2024 exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Met Gala motif entitled, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” The reveal was met with a myriad of confused individuals online, predicting a display of designer jammies on the red carpet for the famed opening as well as a parade of princesses on the museum steps thinking “Sleeping Beauties” was a reference to the classic Disney animation. Yet, neither are correct.

So, if the theme doesn’t call for nighties or knights, what does “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” mean?

First, let’s dive into the intention of the exhibit.

The new exhibit promises to display 250 archive pieces from the Costume Insititute’s permanent collection, some of which date back 400 years to the Elizabethan period. According to Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, the entire exhibit is centered around 50 historical garments, latent and so fragile they can never be worn again – the “sleeping beauties” of the exhibit. The main motivating piece was a Charles Frederick Worth original, an 1877 silk satin ball gown. Each delicate piece, some no longer in their true form, will be reimagined inside innovative casings made to bring the garments back to life.

While the inherent movement of each piece is apparent even in a state of stillness, CGI, soundscaping, light projection, the illusion technique Pepper’s ghost, and video animation will be installed to propel these pieces out of their shelling.

Just as a 17th century bodice is said to be contextualised next to a modern acquisition, each archival treasure will be juxtaposed with more current designs from lauded creatives like Stella McCartney, Phillip Lim, Yves Saint Laurent, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Christian Dior, all mimicing the same structural concept of its counterpart.

Through careful curation, the organic essence of each textile piece will be categorised under three “zones” or sections – land, sea, and sky. By doing this, the idea is to highlight views of the natural world, how perception of these areas has changed, and how they’ve been configured in fashion. In other words, we’ll get to see the evolution of nature and how it’s been developed by industry inventors.

Notable pieces by Alexander McQueen like the razor-clam shell dress from the 2001 “Voss” spring/summer collection and the mesmerising butterfly dress from Sarah Burton’s first collection at the fashion house in 2011, will be featured.

Overall, “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” intends to dig up tangible pieces of history, some of which were put to rest years ago, to motivate conversation about natural elements and emotion, as well as pay homage to the intimacy between a garment and its wearer with the transformative power of current technology.

As for this year’s dress code, Vogueleaned into the romantic notion of eternal beauty with “The Garden of Time”. The title is the same as the 1962 JG Ballard story it’s inspired by – a devastating dystopian view detailing the tale of Count Axel, Countess, and their intrinsic crystalline garden with time-controlling properties. Count Axel is forced into a paradox, needing to pluck every flower to reverse time and stop an angry mob from destroying the peaceful property.

Based on the aim of the exhibit and the gala dress code, we can expect to see the A-listers attending the Met Gala – the annual Costume Institute benefit held on the first Monday in May – in custom-made or revived period pieces that channel all or one of the sections with embellishments musing envrionmental preservation.

Designers often collaborate with celebrities to come up with renditions of past runway looks, but this time they’ll most likely be imagining traditional structures, built with organic fabrics and materials. The looks should implement a historical aspect, reminiscing on the evolution of fashion in tandem with conversations and feelings about climate and landscape. We may see a lot of creatives tap figures from Elizabethan times, playing with long and full silhouettes. Floral or rosette details are to be expected too. But one guarantee for the Met Gala every year is stars dressing with absolutely no intention of being on theme. So, who knows maybe someone will show up in their matching PJ set.

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