Met Gala exhibition to feature garments, accessories spanning four centuries

Head curator of the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Andrew Bolton speaks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s announcement of the Costume Institute’s spring 2024 exhibition. Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP

The Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday unveiled the theme for the Costume Institute's 2024 exhibition and gala, the fashion world's party of the year - "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion."

Every year, the Met Gala draws a who's who of A-listers from the worlds of fashion, film, politics and sports - a list tightly curated by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

Next year, the party will take place in Manhattan on May 6 to celebrate the opening of the exhibition, which the public can view from May 10 through September 2. Both are cosponsored by the video-sharing app TikTok.

The sweeping and immersive exhibition will feature about 250 garments and accessories spanning four centuries, from the Costume Institute's vast archives of 33,000 pieces -- from a 17th-century embroidered jacket to an Alexander McQueen gown from spring-summer 2001 made of shells.

"Using the natural world as a uniting visual metaphor for the transience of fashion, the show will explore cyclical themes of rebirth and renewal, breathing new life into these storied objects," the Met said.

Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Anna Wintour attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s announcement of the Costume Institute’s spring 2024 exhibition. Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP

Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton explained that when items enter the museum's collection, "it can't be worn, obviously. So you don't see the movement. You can't smell it, you can't hear it, you can't touch it."

With the exhibition, he said he hopes to "reawaken the sort of sensorial capacities within fashions in the Costume Institute, through various technologies."
Fanned out on a large table in a room resembling a laboratory was a full silk satin House of Worth ball gown from the late 19th century, its embroidery, beads, and sequins still resplendent despite the years.

The 1887 dress is now too fragile and damaged to be placed on a mannequin. So it will be displayed flat but also restored to its original magnificence thanks to computer imaging and the use of a hologram -- a nod to immersive exhibitions that are all the rage today.
Bolton said the museum approached Chinese-owned TikTok to cosponsor the event because of the platform's "accessibility."

Historical garments are displayed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP

"We really wanted to have the biggest, broadest sort of platform possible in terms of how the show is actually disseminated more globally," he said when asked if he feared backlash over choosing TikTok, given its alleged links to China's ruling Communist Party.

The Met Gala is the primary source of funding for the Costume Institute. Wintour took over the charity gala in the 1990s and transformed it into one of the world's buzziest fetes.