What happens inside The Met Gala? An up-close look at the art celebs see

What happens inside The Met Gala? An up-close look at the art celebs see


NEW YORK − The line between high fashion and nature is blurred throughout the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newest exhibit “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.” The exhibition is the centerpiece of this year’s Met Gala, an event that has become so eclipsed by celebrity it can be hard to remember it’s actually a fundraiser for the museum’s Costume Institute.

Once A-listers climb those famed steps, the public is shut out of what lies inside. Attendees − handpicked by Anna Wintour, Vogue editor-in-chief and an elective trustee of the institute − are not permitted to broadcast from the party. As a result, the Met Gala is both extremely public and extremely private. While we can’t tell you which celebs inevitably posed for bathroom selfies or exchanged flirtatious glances, we can reveal the art they took in.

Here’s a rundown on “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion.”

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“When a work of fashion enters into the Met’s collection something happens: it becomes an object,” Met director and CEO Max Hollein said in remarks delivered at a press preview Monday morning. “We can no longer wear it, we can no longer touch it, we can no longer feel it. We don’t feel it and we can’t even smell it. Not in the way the original creator has intended,” he continued.

Hollein is laying out the internal logic of the exhibit, which seems to be − fashion is to be felt, not just admired, and no number of years passed should preclude that original purpose. While you cannot touch the clothing on display, the museum has created clever ways to allow visitors to experience the fashion through all senses.

Drawn exclusively from the Met’s permanent collection, the exhibition houses some 220 pieces dating back to the 17th century, head curator Andrew Bolton told the crowd Monday. Many of the galleries showcase a “sleeping beauty” or a dress lying flat, too delicate to even stretch around a mannequin for display.

The exhibit isn’t all antiquity though, there’s plenty of modern design and technology at play.

Tech is the key to “reawakening” theme

For a display deeply rooted in works from the past, trappings of the modern world are everywhere. Immersive and multi-sensory, some of the galleries house speakers playing the swishing sound of silk that the gowns would have made while others allowed you to touch the walls to feel the texture of the fabrics.

“Reawakening” is an operative word for the exhibit. Working in tandem to reference the rebirth of spring and the floral patterns that come with it, “reawakening” also refers to the technology used to bring older garments to life.

The final gallery features a 1930s wedding gown worn by New York socialite Natalie Potter. Nearby, a QR code can be scanned to open a custom version of ChatGPT where attendees can “ask” Natalie questions about her dress and life and she’ll answer. Using old family letters and newspaper articles, OpenAI “brought Natalie and her world to life through her gown,” Mira Murati, the chief technology officer for the company said Monday.

Other galleries had tubes emitting scents “reawakened” from the dresses through a process that identifies molecules emitted from the fabric, then reproduces them. In others, attendees could rub the wall gently and then smell it to take in perfume scents of yore.

“What this exhibition tries to do in an experimental and also I think very engaging way is kind of bring back some of this artistic integrity that’s in these objects through technological means,” Hollein told USA TODAY.

Floral motifs just in time for Spring

Appropriate for a spring show, the exhibit is centered around floral motifs and designers who took cues from the natural world. Wintour herself attended the preview in a long green coat complete with bright floral embellishments at the sleeves and the base.

Galleries are separated in large part based on the portion of the natural world from which designers drew inspiration. One room was all poppies, with John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” read aloud from overhead speakers. Deep reds and oranges punctuated gowns from Isaac Mizrahi and Sarah Burton. Another was all about roses, with a “Beauty and the Beast” style rose encased in glass in the center and an ostentatious rose headpiece.

One room took inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, displaying a blazer and gown with dark swallows as footage from “The Birds” played overhead. Another hallway headed to the coast, showcasing garments inspired by the oceanside and a series of shiny shell purses.

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