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Joan Smalls at The Met Gala, May 2018
Joan Smalls at The Met Gala, May 2018 | © Nina Westervelt/BEI/REX/Shutterstock
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Fashion and the Met Gala: Why We Favour the Understated Over the Outrageous

Picture of Sarah Leigh Bannerman
Fashion Editor
Updated: 8 May 2018
Each year the Met Gala welcomes the fantastical, the farcical and the people who prove that this much-loved celebration of fashion doesn’t have to be a theatrical production. Culture Trip celebrates the latter.

Taking place every year since 1946 on the first Monday of May, the Met Gala is perhaps the most talked-about party in fashion’s calendar. The concept is simple: it’s a fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a chance for the fashion elite to celebrate the launch of its newest exhibition.

Guests are encouraged to dress for the theme – this year’s being ‘Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination’ – and red-carpet looks have evolved from outfits into costumes, becoming more outlandish with every passing year.

Previous years’ themes have spanned everything from ‘China Through The Looking Glass’ in 2015, when Beyonce wore a completely sheer, embellished dress and Rihanna donned that yellow gown, to 2006’s ‘AngloMania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion’, when Sarah Jessica Parker and Alexander McQueen arrived wearing matching tartan ensembles.

While the gala is a well-deserved chance for designers to exercise their creative flair and celebrities to parade for the ‘best dressed’ title, we would argue that dressing in a way that’s so completely over the top in a bid for media attention has a couple of draw backs. Firstly, it takes away from the philanthropic reason that the guests have all gathered and, more harshly, it just feels a little bit desperate.

There’s no doubt that what the event organisers are doing is something to be marvelled at. This year’s exhibit explores how religious art has influenced fashion over the years, and it features artefacts that have never been seen before outside of the Vatican. The Costume Institute Curator Andrew Bolton presents the likes of Chanel and Versace (Donatella Versace is also an exhibit sponsor) to relate the historical theme to contemporary culture. And it’s true that the red-carpet creations are simply an extension of that, while also setting trends for the coming seasons and honouring looks of the past.

That said, it seems a shame that the evening’s sartorial statements have now become the main focus. Undoubtedly the promotion surrounding the entire showcase increases when Rhianna arrives dripping head to toe in rhinestones and Madonna wears a mask covering her entire head, but does this represent the fashion industry, contemporary culture and the link between art and fashion in the best light?

Here, Culture Trip celebrates the more understated looks of 2018’s event, from Sienna Miller in Louis Vuitton to Kendall Jenner wearing bespoke Off White. These outfits, while red-carpet worthy, remain elegant, understated and, above all, respectful to the cause in question.

Sienna Miller wearing Louis Vuitton at The Met Gala, May 2018
Sienna Miller wearing Louis Vuitton at The Met Gala, May 2018 | © Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock
Hailey Baldwin wearing Tommy Hilfiger at The Met Gala, 07 May 2018
Hailey Baldwin wearing Tommy Hilfiger at The Met Gala, 07 May 2018 | © David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock
Kendall Jenner wearing Off White at The Met Gala, 07 May 2018
Kendall Jenner wearing Off White at The Met Gala, 07 May 2018 | © Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock
Alexa Chung wearing Alexa Chung at The Met Gala, 07 May 2018
Alexa Chung wearing Alexa Chung at The Met Gala, 07 May 2018 | © Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock