Museum  May 9, 2024  Carlota Gamboa

Sand Dresses at The Met Gala 2024, A Brief History and Review

Wikimedia Commons, Photo by Kai Pilger

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Front Entrance Exterior, 2017. License

As spring settles in, another Met Gala has come and gone. However, this year’s annual benefit sparked some conversations challenging celebrity-watch culture amidst a time of serious political strife. How did what was once referred to as the “Oscars for the East Coast” suddenly amass this squabble? 

The origins of the Met Gala are much less glamorous than what a modern spectator is used to seeing. The event began as a way to fundraise for the newly allocated Costume Institute department after the Museum of Costume Art joined forces with The Metropolitan in 1946. Only attended by New York socialites and local industry insiders, the “Met Gala” was originally referred to as the “Costume Institute Benefit” when fashion publicist, Eleanor Lambert, hosted the first midnight breakfast in 1948.  

Wikimedia Commons, ©Lynn Gilbert

Diana Vreeland, 1978. License

In 1971, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Babe Paley persuaded Diana Vreeland— and The Met— to join the event committee after Vreeland left her post as editor-in-chief of Vogue. Vreeland not only had an impact on the guest list, with party attendees like Cher, Andy Worhol, Diana Ross, and Elizabeth Taylor, but also on the construct. After Vreeland’s initial 1972 gala, “The World of Balenciaga,” predetermined themes became central to the event. 

This year’s theme seemed to predict the subsequent backlash the evening would garner. “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” and the accompanying dress code of “Garden of Time” is based off of J.G. Ballard’s dystopian short story of the same name (Garden of Time), in which a count and his wife attempt to fend off an angry horde by picking “time flowers.” Once the flowers run out, their estate will be seized, so the couple decides to petrify themselves alongside the final flower to avoid being overrun.  

The 220 fashion pieces featured within the 2024 Met Gala spanned from the 17th century to the present, and different somatic experiences were also included. Three-dimensional film projections beside certain garments, the sound-scape rattling of a razor clamshell dress by Alexander McQueen, and the display of Vincent van Gogh flora still life artworks could all be found coexisting at The Met. 

Of course, there were plenty of stand-out moments from this year’s gala, one including South African singer Tyla in a Balmain dress made entirely out of sand. Called the “Sands of Time,” the skin-tight body cast of appliquéd sand could only be worn once and had to be cut off of her. New York fashion icon, Chloë Sevigny, also did not disappoint in a gown comprised of repurposed Victorian fabrics by Turkish British designer Dilara Findikoglu. 

Although more subtle, Killers of The Flower Moon actress Lily Gladstone also shone in a black dress and cape by Gabriela Hearst, with accents by Kiowa jeweler Keri Ataumbi. The gown was embroidered with recycled silver stars forming miniatures of constellations that can be seen from the Great Plains. 

About the Author

Carlota Gamboa

Carlota Gamboa is an art writer based in Los Angeles.

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