EVOLVING THREADS: WHERE FASHION TRANSCENDS ARTISTRY
Sunday, October 29, 2023
The Met Gala is the most distinguishable portrayal of high-end, haute-couture fashion, where worldwide A-list celebrities adorn the red carpet wearing brilliant ensembles explicitly designed for the event. In recent years, the Met Gala’s themes have demonstrated more recognition toward designers and the icons who first brought these ideas to life.
Many celebrities have worn outfits inspired (either loosely or directly) by past icons. Yara Shahidi was dressed in a silver Dior gown for the 2021 Gilded Glamour Met Gala, a look inspired by 20th-century entertainer Josephine Baker. Kendall Jenner’s Audrey Hepburn-inspired look in 2021 reflected the signature My Fair Lady outfit work by Hepburn: an ode to vintage, ageless glam. Inspiration stems from anywhere and everywhere, but adapting old pieces into modernity is where the line between inspiration and recreation blurs itself.
In the 2022 Met Gala, Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s world-renowned Happy Birthday Mr. President dress, a sheer, diamond-detailed, floor-length gown specifically augmented to the singer’s body. After intensive dieting and a grueling workout regimen to fit into the garment, Kim’s curves still caused damage to the dress.
The conception of curviness has dramatically changed between the 20th century and today, with the media evolving what body types are considered trendy. From petite, small-waisted curves to accentuated, unachievable curves, Kim could slim down, but Marilyn could never size up. Rewearing Marilyn’s dress, on the other hand, was inappropriate and did not give this artistic piece the credit and care it truly deserved. Bob Mackie, the original designer of the dress, strongly disapproved of Kim wearing it to the Gala, as, in his words, “Marilyn Monroe should be the only woman ever seen in that gown.” Designers view their work as art, but to what extent do these parallels appear in consumers?
Inspiration is beautiful when it pays tribute to its origins without attempting to copy artistic integrity, such as Yara Shahidi’s gown recognizing Josephine Baker’s importance. Consider Dua Lipa, Margot Robbie, Penélope Cruz, Huma Abedin, and Suki Waterhouse: all renowned celebrities for their work and style. These modern-day icons have all been dressed in gowns to honor the late designer Karl Lagerfeld at the 2023 Met Gala. The only difference was that the gowns were made for typical, media-favored bodies and were more likely to fit the celebrities’ standard figures. Lagerfeld’s other designs were later exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum, further emphasizing how fashion truly is art and must be appreciated as such.
Kardashian’s controversial Met Gala look has experts speculating the notion that wearing a perfectly crafted gown made to simply be and stay iconic is, to most, considered a fashion and artistic crime.
Attempting to modernize a look that was not only made for its original time period but should have stayed preserved in such alludes to the garments as not just fashion but also art.
So, what differentiates art from fashion? At what point does fashion become something beautiful to admire and not to touch or wear?
If somebody ripped the paint off the Mona Lisa, it would be a catastrophe because of its unique, illustrious properties. Fashion as art should be created with that specific purpose, such as Bella Hadid’s spray-on dress in Coperni’s Summer 2023 Runway. That dress was art, constructed live, meant to be showcased on her body and her body only – the moment was not to be recreated, for artistic integrity was held to a higher standard.
The highest buyer may collect the scraps, but art is meant to be enjoyed as it happens and lives, not to be repurposed. Wearing an original gown to a Gala to solely establish an image is considered offensive to designers and icons. Many of these fashion moguls consider art and fashion to be interchangeable. Fashion is art and garners a steep price because of its designers and muses. Being able to afford this piece of art should give collectors the right to look at, mesmerize, and enjoy it, not to be passed around as a costume party idea. Art is only what an audience interprets it to be. The Mona Lisa’s timelessness, Bella Hadid’s spray-on dress, and other unachievable, renowned garments are only praised because they can only be seen. Not worn, not touched, not damaged, but preserved.