On Monday, US time, Wintour published a piece on Vogue’s website lamenting what would normally be “a day that for me is typically the busiest and the most exciting of the year”.
“But this year, instead of standing on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum welcoming guests to a gala, I’ll be at home like most of you,” she wrote. “With all the grief and hardship in this country, the postponement of a party is nothing. And yet, I am sad about it.”
By Tuesday morning, Australian time, about 3000 people had posted their interpretations of famous Met Gala looks with the hashtag #MetGalaChallenge via Instagram. One even recreated Beyonce’s famous 2015 “naked dress” with the very 2020 addition of a bejewelled face mask.
At the same time, a parallel (and some would argue, more intellectual) virtual Met Gala was happening on Twitter, hosted by the High Fashion Twitter (hft) group (@HFMetGala), using the hashtag #HFMetGala2020.
Co-organiser Aria Olson told The New York Times last week that the hft Met Gala, which usually runs alongside the main event, was conceived by a cohort of Gen Z students as a way of offering fashion lovers who otherwise would never gain access to the physical gala (aside from the expense of hosting a table, Wintour must personally approve every guest) a place to celebrate its grandeur and pay homage to the history of clothing and style.
About 900 entrants participated in the Twitter “event” through four categories: using photos to create a look, styling themselves in their own clothes, illustrating a new look or going vintage in an assigned brand archive. The fact the designers were divvied up via a Google form only added to the “unvarnished” nature of the event, which differentiates itself from the more stylised world of Instagram.
The cancellation of the gala, which is due to return in 2021 but under what guise no one can say yet for sure, is one of the many projectiles ricocheting through a fashion industry rocked by coronavirus. Big questions are also being asked about everything from the future of fashion shows (it’s unlikely most if not all of the September ones will proceed) to the issue of overproduction and waste – issues that were being addressed at a glacial speed that the pandemic has kicked into high gear.
In place of the gala, Vogue hosted a “Moment with the Met” live Youtube show, featuring a performance by Florence and the Machine and a DJ set by Off_White and Louis Vuitton menswear designer Virgil Abloh.
The Met Gala had its origins as a $50-a-head dinner to benefit the Met Museum’s Costume Institute and has morphed into the mega-red carpet event it is today. Or at least it was before coronavirus forced the indefinite postponement of this year’s event. Its companion exhibition, About Time: Fashion and Duration, has been delayed until October.
Melissa Singer is National Fashion Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.