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Alanna Martine Kilkeary / Her Campus
Style > Fashion

Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion – the 2024 MET Gala theme explained

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Every first Monday of May, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opens its doors and rolls out a red carpet for the most influential celebrities to parade their dazzling outfits, designed within the theme of the Costume Institute exhibition. 

This year, the theme is called Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion, which will be exhibited at the MET from May 10th to September 2nd. As always, we look forward to seeing how the celebrities and designers interpreted this and what they’ll bring to the 2024 MET Gala.

What does this theme mean?

Despite the name, this theme has nothing to do with fairy tales and children’s stories, but rather with the celebration of old and fragile pieces of clothing, which can never be used again. That’s why they are sleeping beauties in the Costume Institute archive. According to the MET, we can expect a big variety of interpretations on the red carpet, such as English corsets from the Elizabethan era and fragile, delicate garments that represent major moments in fashion.

The second part to understand this year’s dress code is “The Garden of Time”. The name is inspired by a tale of the same name, written by the British JG Ballard, in 1962, which tells the story of Count Axel and his wife, the Countess, in their utopia of leisure, art and beauty. 

The village where they live overlooks a flower garden with translucent leaves and shiny stems with crystals in the center of each one. However, there is a dystopian element to this paradise – holding on to it is like trying to hold on to a handful of sand. As the hours pass, an invading crowd approaches Conde Axel’s village. To maintain peace and avoid invasion, the Count must pick a time-reversing flower from his garden until there are none left. The story ends with the crowd storming the property and a statue of the Count and Countess tangled in thorny plants in the abandoned garden.

Possible interpretations of the theme

Summing up what was said at the beginning, the dress code of the night, as well as the Costume Institute exhibition, is about finite beauty.

The most obvious interpretation would be to embrace the “garden” part of the tale. Something like moody florals.

Dries Van Noten spring/summer 2014 and 2017 collection

Using something from the Belgian designer’s collection, which features several tulips apparently ripped from the cover, would be a great choice. The same would happen with his 2017 collection, where models paraded down a catwalk of flowers frozen in blocks of ice, made by artist Azuma Makoto – a great crystalline floral reference.

Haute Couture 2024

For those who want to dive deeper into the floral theme, there were several looks full of flowers and references that would fit very well with the dress code, shown recently in the haute couture collections

Simone Rocha‘s debut collection in Jean Paul Gaultier‘s haute couture, where the models walked around with silver roses in their hands wearing coquettish style clothes – another great reference that fits the “Sleeping Beauties” theme.

Elements from the tale

There are also non-floral elements in Ballard’s tale. As the crowd’s destruction approaches, the Countess plays classical music, such as Mozart and Bach. On that note, it would be interesting to see people wearing pieces from Valentino’s 2014 summer collection.

In addition, in the story, Count Axel is described as wearing black velvet and a silk tie. It is possible to get great reinterpretations of this outfit. 

The time, its reversal and our insignificance in the face of it, is another theme to explore. Going more Camp (flirting with the old Met Gala theme), like Moschino’s winter 2022 clock dress, or opting for small accessories, like the Crash watch, by Cartier, would be great choices.

Exhibition as a reference

Taking a different path, guests can immerse themselves in the exhibition itself, which celebrates the nature of fashion. 

We know that there are several Alexander McQueen looks in the exhibition, such as the summer 2001 dress, made almost entirely from shells collected on the beaches of Norfolk, as well as Sarah Burtin‘s look with monarch butterfly wings for Alexander McQueen. This is a sign to go beyond floral – perhaps look to nature in fashion in general, which gives us so much more than just flowers.

Finally, there is the general concept of the exhibition: old fashion, which deserves our recognition. Last year, at the Cannes Film Festival, Natalie Portman wore a recreation of the Junon dress, an icon from the Dior collection (which even appears in the exhibition). It’s a great line to draw inspiration from.

Choosing an archive piece would recognize the spirit of an exhibition that is focused on the passage of time, regardless of whether it is remarkable, a recreation or just an inspiration.


The article above was edited by Maria Esther Cortez.

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Gabriela Romar

Casper Libero '25

Journalism student obsessed with fashion and beauty & art lover