The Met Gala is Out of Touch—With Fashion

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The Met Gala, a fundraiser dedicated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, is a historically out-of-touch event, frequently compared to the dystopian Capitol from The Hunger Games because while the rest of the world struggles, an elite group attends a lavish party in over the top costumes. Much of the general public has become desensitized to watching celebrities wearing custom designer outfits attend an event where tickets are priced for thousands.

Still image from The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

In The Devil Wears Prada (2006), the Editor of a fashion magazine, known to be mimicking Vogue Editor-in-Chief and Met Gala organizer Anna Wintour, explains the concept of trickle-down fashion to Andy, a clueless fashion intern. When Andy chuckles at the absurdity of arguing over marginally different belt designs for a runway show, the Editor of the magazine quipped that the exact color of her sweater—cerulean—that she found in a department store rose to fame after Oscar de la Renta released a collection of cerulean gowns years before. During the early 2000s, magazines were everything: Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and countless others determined what was trending through advertisements and a booming modeling industry. 

In real life, Wintour’s Met Gala, running since 1995, has been dubbed the “Oscars of fashion.” The event is known for its exclusivity. With 450 attendees, tables (selling for $350,000) are bought out by brands that choose celebrities, approved by Wintour, for promotion. Most alluring of all is the mystery beyond the red carpet; after facing hundreds of cameras, attendees turn off their phones and few details have been released about what happens inside the event.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, TikTok use soared in America and social media influencers rose to popularity like never before. When it came time for Wintour to pick the most influential people in fashion for the 2021 and 2022 Met Galas, a new genre of celebrity appeared on the famous Met steps. However, this choice was a culture shock to many who viewed influencers as unworthy of attending the A-list gala. Though the guest selection process is immensely secretive, this criticism likely resulted in the lack of influencers—beyond a few fashion-focused ones—at the 2023 and 2024 Met Galas.

As the line between celebrity and influencer continues to blur, social media like TikTok gives practically anyone the power to be watched by millions. This allows consumers—with a following or not—to be equally involved in creating trends. The trickle-up effect, referring to trends having their roots in the lower class, has become increasingly more popular. Additionally, social media has habitualized the trickle-across effect, when trends spread through all social classes at the same time.

Trickle-up brands were particularly apparent in the 2024 Met Gala as, according to Business of Fashion, “H&M dressed more people than Gucci” and “Tommy Hilfiger was mentioned more on social media than Chanel.” As a response to trickle-down culture, cheaper versions of luxury products—known as dupes—have become a source of pride as millions look for dupes that are “just as good as the real thing.” Support of fast fashion, and its increasing relevance in pop culture due to a rapid trend cycle, has serious environmental risks that are often ignored. 

Even brands themselves recognize the power of the trickle-across system. The Chloé Maxime wedge, which is gearing up to be a shoe of the summer, was marketed not by those walking the runway but by people sitting in the front row of a fashion show. Though those in the front row are not exactly peers for most Americans, Chloé’s intentional marketing allowed the shoe to appear to already be a part of the trend cycle, drawing more interest than the runway itself.

While trickle-down fashion continues to affect trends and corporate advertising behind the scenes, trends are increasingly coming from trickle-across and up systems. One clear cause of this shift is the loss of fashion magazine influence. Even Wintour’s own publisher, Condé Nast, cut 5% of its workforce after years of declining sales.

The Met Gala is largely disconnected from the trend cycle as its focus is clearly on celebrities and brands that create conversation about themselves, for themselves. According to one PR agent, “While brands get attention for their looks, they can’t be purchased.” They use celebrities to create conversations around their products, focusing on “marketing and social amplification.” Though it can be fun to debate who was best and worst dressed, the Met Gala ultimately displays how extravagant celebrity fashion is moving further away from trends as both become shaped by consumers themselves.

Celeste is a junior in her second year of journalism. She is the co-writer of the weekly column Bears Doing Big Things, featuring alumni. She enjoys covering issues affecting the M-A community through features and writing about student culture. Her story on La Biscotteria was recognized as a top-10 NSPA Blog Post of 2023.

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