The first Monday in May is auspicious enough in the world of fashion to require a documentary named after it; it signals the start of Spring and a guaranteed roster of which celebrities are still deemed important enough to land an invitation to Anna Wintour’s Met Gala. But the “Superbowl of Fashion,” as style icon-turned-memoirist André Leon Talley deemed it in the aforementioned film, has evolved immensely from its slightly more egalitarian beginnings in 1948, when attendees could attend a charitable dinner for a $50 fee (which translates to around $500 by 2020 standards, and was still a bargain in comparison to today’s $35,000 ticket price). In this century, the Met Gala has become shorthand for the elite of the elite, showcasing impossibly elaborate and sometimes conceptual pieces that make not statements but the more elevated moments, to also borrow a Talley term.
Clearly, this year’s Gala has been “postponed indefinitely,” due to continued shutdown orders, but even its specter has shifted to further highlight the more troubling undercurrent it has long represented. It has been endlessly fun to revel in the staggeringly fantastic looks and eye-roll at the try-hardiest interpretations of its themes—as I have done here, with anticipation and excitement, for the past five years. But imagining such an extravagant gala occurring now, as the country sinks into an economic circumstance adjacent to a depression, feels like a lifetime away, particularly as leadership and brands alike fall in step with “We’re all in this together” messaging. (As Anna Wintour wrote in an editorial, “With all the grief and hardship in this country, the postponement of a party is nothing. And yet, I am sad about it, and I suspect some of you are too.”)
Vogue has mitigated by inviting readers to recreate looks from past balls with its #MetGalaChallenge, a decent compromise that both highlights reader creativity and underscores the ivory tower in which it’s historically operated, but simply recreating looks brings up a criticism I’ve had in the past which is that the Met Gala simply is not weird enough. It’s fun, but could be more fun. I’m still mad Jojo Siwa wasn’t invited to the Met Gala themed Camp.
At Jezebel, wanting to give our own spin a try, I asked staff and friends to email photos of their own, socially distanced looks for our Net Gala (with credit to Jezebel contributor Garrett Schlichte for the name). My only rules: Looks must adhere to the would-be theme of the 2020 Met Gala, the hilariously prescient “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” however the subject saw fit (including their scrubbiest sweatpants, considering “time” has been bleeding into itself for the “duration” of what seems like forever); and they had to answer the perpetually important question, “Who are you wearing”? Let’s check out what these looks are doing, no?
Here, we have a glorious melange of hats and concept. Jezebel pop culture reporter Hazel Cills is channeling tri-state chic in Peppa Pig and a leopard pillbox; she says, “This Net Gala I am wearing an airbrushed Peppa Pig t-shirt, made by the House of Wildwood, New Jersey Boardwalk ($15,300), to represent the future of fashion, streetwear, and youth culture. This piece is custom couture designed for me in the summer of 2019 under my exact specifications, it is NOT wrinkled it is purposefully distressed. I keep it in a temperature-controlled closet and am thrilled to debut it this Gala.
For accessories, I am wearing a vintage leopard pillbox hat ($10,532) to represent fashion’s past and formality. Both articles of clothing make use of animal imagery in distinctive ways; the hat with imitation fur, the shirt with imitation Peppa Pig, both pieces illustrating the cyclical nature of fashion’s obsession with animals as well as the mass production of patterns and characters.”
Maiysha Kai, Managing Editor of The Glow-Up, is simply destroying all red carpets with superior eye shadow skills and the moment-building this type of thing needs. Of her look, she says: “In thinking ‘About Time,’ I was reminded that just as ‘everything old becomes new again,’ the sacred often becomes the mundane. Accordingly, I chose as my Net Gala headpiece the Bamileke or ‘Juju’ ceremonial hat traditionally worn by Cameroonian chiefs and elders—but now frequently found on the walls of design lovers like me worldwide; a symbol of honor appropriated as a decorative accent. Granted, in my case, a good portion of my own genealogy traces back to Cameroon but for me, the hat, which I’d pair with one of Valentino’s voluminous black gowns, ironically also evokes the timeless yet exclusionary elegance of 20th century post-war fashion—and those ladies who lunched, always in fabulous hats.”
Jezebel contributor Justice Namaste has approached the theme with a surrealist spirit and a beret with, perhaps, a nod to the French greats: Breton, Duchamp. “I read that article like three times,” she says, “and still didn’t really understand where the depth was supposed to be in that theme soooo I went with my first instinct (lol).”
In other corners, attendees have adorned from head to toe in the unexpected, reinventing elements of the everyday.
Esther Wang, Jezebel senior reporter, makes a subtle commentary on the interplay between leisure and labor in a fur stole and shower cap. “Mixed up what I’ve been wearing a lot at home—a blue rayon caftan I bought in Mexico City what feels like ages ago but was only last year, with a shower cap that I sometimes leave on my head all day nowadays,” she says. “Threw on a vintage YAK FUR stole (lol) and some earrings because why not? What is time? Can I occupy two wholly different mindsets at once? I tried! Please note that I am also wearing two pimple patches because despite the pandemic my skin still wants to be a little bitch.” Dusty Childers, tarot enthusiast and Jezebel contributor, understands that when time is a flat circle, you better carry that shit around in a handbag; he adds that he is wearing a “McQueen Armadillo shoe Xmas ornament necklace.” And Ms. Truvy Bouvier Kennedy-Onassis, Jezebel’s fifth cutest pet, has made a profound statement about the everyday object in Coca-Cola couture that she conceptualized herself.
Finally, the carpet gives us commentary on the “duration” portion of the theme. Frida Garza, writer and former Jezebel staffer, has a stylish take on the everyday in a color story that speaks to the warped nature of time in this epoch. “I went for MONOCHROME, opting for warm red/orange tones instead of my usual black because against all odds it is spring and it is not a radical act to remember one day it’ll be summer,” she says. “It’s just the fact of the matter, the cut and dry of it, more inevitable than you or I.” Garza wears “pants by a friend who gave them to me with the tags cut off; top by my tía who knows my taste better than I do; chongo by me.” Jezebel Senior Editor Kelly Faircloth is serving the timeless nature of the everyday artist smock or, in her estimation, “a shirt that makes me look like I’m part of a community theater production of South Pacific playing third seebee from the right, which I purchased at TJ Maxx in White Plains in a haze the day after we won our last union contract. It will not stay buttoned and it is dyed so it looks like it has a bleach stain on the front and I understand why it was on sale and I have been wearing it for god knows how many days. I would be wearing the black linen tunic covered in glitter glue but it was smeared with guac by the toddler so I had to make other Net Gala costume arrangements.” And Jezebel senior writer Megan Reynolds, wearing Eileen Fisher, Hanes, and the utterly enviable, rare leopard Croc, reminds us that nothing is more emblematic or enduring than one’s personal uniform, a style that cannot be replicated, for it is the wearer, not the garments.
Joan Summers, Jezebel staff writer, reminds us of the constant nature of the blushing bride in deep-discounted Vera Wang diffusion. [This caption has been updated to reflect that Joan does not have a zillion dollars to spend on a gown.] “Before the pandemic,” she says, “my husband and I eloped. We planned, between our friends, to hold a small ceremony after the fact at a beach house in the town where I group up, on the coast, where we’d spend the weekend doing lots of acid and smoking lots of weed. That didn’t happen, of course. So in interpreting this year’s theme, I figured it’s ‘About Time’ I get to wear this ridiculous Vera Wang dress I happened across. (I’m sure there’s an applicable Virginia Woolf quote here.)”
Speaking of Virginia Woolfe, she prominently figured in this year’s theme, and it’s clear which attendees look to the past to make sense of the future. Emily Alford, Jez staff writer, is serving sponge roller decadence. “Inspired by Tilda Swinton’s eyebrowless performance in Orlando,” she says, “I chose to pair an ACE bandage cravat with a Spode teacup full of gin in homage to the Louis XVI tradition of encasing oneself in a ruffled bubble and gorging until the world beyond the garden wall ceases to matter.” Jezebel contributor Garrett Schlichte is freed from 1800s restraint in a bouffant rooted in the past but with aplomb that rejects its constraints. “It’s very if Tilda Antoinette kept running through that maze and came out way, way later,” they say. “I’m wearing a robe I got when I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding, a faux fur coat I stole from my friend Rachael and platforms I found on eBay that are the greatest thing I’ve ever purchased—and of course my real actual hair. It’s all sustainable because it was either given or stolen or found!” And incoming CNN Managing Editor Kelly Bourdet went straight Victorian, with a little bit of edge—accessorizing impeccably, as she always does.
Period detail shots, from two Kellys: Bourdet’s elaborate hairpiece and lace bodice, Faircloth’s Old Navy slippers, which she purchased because of the “late 19th-century reproduction of the decadent late-middle 1700s vibes.”
We finish with three stunning contemporary concepts. Prachi Gupta, writer and former Jezebel staffer, calls her look “Cyberpunk Dadi (which is grandmother in Hindi).” She says, “I’m wearing my Dadiji’s sari and fused it with a futuristic, dystopian cyberpunk aesthetic, wearing Spanx black vegan leather leggings and a black Aerie bralette in black of the traditional petticoat and blouse. Paired with my Doc Marten boots and a purple Bob wig. Wearing my mom and Dadiji’s jewelry.” Someone give her a katana and cast her in an action film next, thanks! Ashley Reese, staff writer, is giving us an awesome colorway in lilac and chartreuse Simonett, Intentionally Blank, and vintage American Apparel. “I’m serving jaundice... accidentally,” she says, because she had to mix and match her eyeshadow to create a lime green. Yet thematically, it’s perfectly on point; nothing says “history” like jaundice! Finally, Harron Walker, Vice staffer and Jezebel contributor, has given us Oak four ways, interpreting “time” by showing the multiplicity of self through the lens of the iPhone self timer. She says “my ‘interpretation’ of the theme beyond wanting to look hot on the internet, is A Woman in Stasis: Overgrown bangs, a dress I can’t fully zip without another person’s help, the lack of other people since I’m stuck in isolation. Quarantina! Tick tock, tick tock.”