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‘Sleeping Beauties’: Breathing New Life into The Met Gala

It’s official – the theme of the 2024 Met Gala is "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion". 

Princess gowns and fairytale folklore might be what you would expect to see in the 2024 show, especially with Disney celebrating its 100th birthday this year, but the actual intention for the exhibit isn’t quite what you would imagine.  

The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced last week that the Spring 2024 Met Gala will ‘explore notions of rebirth and renewal, using nature as a metaphor for the impermanence of fashion’. By focusing on the three zones of ‘Land, Sea and Sky’, prospective looks will bring attention to the fashion industry’s impact on the natural world.  

Aside from promoting climate consciousness, the theme intends to breathe new life into historic garments that are currently preserved in the Met collection. Around 250 archival designs will be on display, demonstrating fashion’s cyclical nature, as well as the importance of reusing clothes and investing in capsule collections.  

Kim Kardashian’s Marilyn Monroe dress sparked controversy around how archival pieces are worn at last year's Met Ball. After following a rigorous diet and workout schedule to fit into Monroe’s dress, Kim Kardashian received harsh criticism for wearing the historic piece despite the owners confirming that no damage had been done.  

In what seems like an acknowledgement of the hotly contested topic, the Met Gala has promised a show that combines the worlds of fashion and technology to ‘reawaken’ the dormant collections in a way that protects the art from being damaged. With the help of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and computer-generated imagery, garments will be displayed without directly interacting with the body.   

Over the last decade, fast fashion brands have dominated the fashion industry, and the way in which we value our clothing has changed with the evolution of ‘throwaway culture.’ Our obsession with acquiring the latest trends - even if this means supporting brands that use pollutant materials or pay their workers less than minimum wage - has increased, and outdated trend pieces are merely discarded.  

By creating this collection, The Met Gala is proving that we can appreciate the beauty of clothing and the artistry involved in fashion long after our clothes are worn. The focus placed on the use of natural materials in the exhibit is a sobering reminder that beautiful garments can still be created without costing the earth. In displaying retired pieces that were deemed too fragile to be worn again, we are asked to question our attitudes to our personal clothing collections. Can we fix our old clothes ourselves, rather than throw them away? Can we create a capsule wardrobe that will last us years rather than a few months?  

If we perceive the clothes we own as evergreen pieces, that are still as wearable and stylish as the day we bought them, we can move closer to being more responsible in our consumption. We can ‘reawaken’ our own ‘Sleeping Beauties’ and find new ways of appreciating these items.  

While the exact dress code for the 2024 Met Gala Ball is yet to be announced, we can certainly hope to see a glimpse of the exhibit’s focus on sustainability and technological innovation in the outfits of the star-studded guest list. 

Words: Katie Martin, she/her


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