The postponed Met Gala represents more than just a cancelled event for fashion lovers like me.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosts a gala on the first Monday of every May to signify the opening of a new costume exhibition. This year it did not happen, and it has been rescheduled to September.
In normal times the gala had a different theme every year. For 2020 it was “About time and fashion duration”. It was largely open, meaning celebrities could wear anything instead of sticking to a theme. I knew this meant more beautiful ball gowns. I was excited. Then the pandemic happened and the gala was cancelled.
The 2021 event was postponed to September 13 2021. It is going to be scaled down, meaning the theatrics will be lost. Now I feel like it should just not happen.
Fashion is expressive and the gala represents the highest form of that expression because of the over-the-top designs worn. Fashion is also political. We have control over our bodies, and therefore control over the way we dress and what our clothes say.
An example of clothing as self-expression is how former president Nelson Mandela chose to wear patterned silk shirts to every event, instead of the more formal suit and tie. US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore golden hoop earrings when being sworn into office, ‘‘as a nod to Latina women and culture’’. Another example is France banning the burqa. It is clear how much power a piece of cloth holds.
With my clothing, I try to express that I am feminine and beautiful. I choose to show off my curves, much of the time for validation, mostly from other women. I never heed men’s views on it and like to think that is a feminist statement.
Since 2014, because of the time difference between Johannesburg and New York, I would stay up late on the night to watch celebrities show up in haute couture. It was tradition for me to be in bed, warm and ready to watch the likes of Beyoncé and Rihanna show up in designer gowns. Phone and a cup of tea in hand, in my Pick n Pay pyjamas and with my hair in a messy bun, I was ready to judge the fashion. How ironic.
Now the first week of May 2021 is almost over and I feel as if I have lost something.
If I am honest, it was the one night that made me feel like a fashion snob. I like knowing things other people don’t, and this event allowed me that. I could wake up the next day and accessorize as a nod to one of those paraded designs. I had a choice.
With the coronavirus pandemic, my pieces of cloth changed. The hard truth is we can wear masks and sanitise, but it is not our choice if we get the virus, or how our bodies respond to it. We have lost control over our bodies and I have lost control over the way I dress and what statements I can make. I have come to realise I have nowhere to go to wear the clothes that make the statements.
If I do go out, mostly I am thinking about how my outfit will match my mask and what clothes will be easiest to wash in case I happen to get near someone with the virus. The only statement I am allowed to make is, “hey we are in a pandemic,” and that is not out of choice.
After a year, we are in the same situation and there is little hope things will change after the vaccine rollout. Who knows how long we will have to live like this. The Met Gala is not able to make a statement as big as it once did. Neither am I.
FEATURED IMAGE: Sumaya Mamdoo
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE: Time to podcast after radio silence, April 2021.
- Wits Vuvuzela, SLICE: Writing a journal heals me, April 2021.
- Wits Vuvuzela, Wits graduate directs fashion documentary, April 2021.