The most recent Met Gala took place on Sept. 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Centered around the freshly curated costume exhibit entitled “America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” the Met Gala encouraged a wide display of fashions from designers following the theme “American Independence.”
The event left some wondering: what is American fashion, and how has it evolved throughout the years of America’s independence?
“I did the whole thing,” said junior Hailey Morelli. “I looked at the outfits, picked out my favorites and laughed when I thought they didn’t follow the theme. But now I’m wondering if I even knew what I was supposed to be looking for?”
In the past, American fashion has relied heavily on European fashion. Some American designers have depended on the influence of their European counterparts, while others have desperately tried to separate from the aesthetic.
In a New York Times article, Fashion Director Vanessa Friedman said, “In the beginning, American fashion was largely defined by what it wasn’t: European.”
According to the Evening Standard, in the beginning of her political career, First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore fashions almost exclusively from European designers. It wasn’t until after Kennedy was struck with criticism that she switched to having her garments made in the United States, many times using European fabrics and patterns which she preferred.
Over time, American fashion has come to represent less of the United States as a whole and more of the individuals who inhabit it.
Inspired by Adeline Harris Sears’ “Signature Quilt with Tumbling Blocks Pattern,” the recently curated costume exhibit is meant to be a place of unification and representation for all aspects of American fashion. According to the MET, the quilt served as “a metaphor for the United States and its varied cultural identities.”
Each of the 100 pieces within the exhibit are shown with a “word bubble headpiece,” chosen to display the different emotions exuded by American fashion.
Diane von Furstenberg’s signature wrap dress is paired with a headpiece labeled “freedom,” representing the freedom given to the wearer due to the dress’s ease of fit, comfort of wear and flexibility of size.
Both of Olivia Cheng’s garments are presented with the attached label “innocence.” This is due to the captured essence of childhood Cheng represents with the technique of using pressed flowers within her designs.
A dress by Patrick Kelly is labeled with the word “joy,” inspired by Kelly’s hope to make people smile with his clothing. The black shift dress is adorned with varying buttons forming a heart shape across the chest, inspired heavily by his grandmother, who altered his clothing as a child.
In a New York Times article, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of the Exhibition Andrew Bolton said, “I just thought it was time to try to make people think differently about American fashion. The show is trying to problematize that tradition of always considering it through a lens of sportswear and reflect the way American designers have been at the forefront of wrestling with contemporary issues, be it ethical, sustainable or social, which are much more emotive.”
“I love the different identities presented within the exhibit. I think it sends such a powerful message that America is made up of several parts which work in unison to create a whole,” said junior Reagan Daly. “The difference in cultural background is what makes America special and unique, what a great way to show it.”