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The 2024 Met Gala: Opinions from a pyjama critic

By Ilana van der Merwe, May 11 2024—

It is the conclusion of the yearly Met Gala that reignites the consumption of high fashion media coverage in everyday news. This year, the theme of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s featured exhibit is “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion”, featuring delicate historic relics that are so fragile that they are not to be worn. With this, Anna Wintour along with her co-chairs announced the dress code: “The Garden of Time”. For context, The Garden of Time is a fictional short story written by J.G. Ballard that features magical diamond flowers that reverse time when picked in. The imagery in this story is fantastically elegant and lavish while the allegory of the story encapsulates commentary on the cycle of death as well as the fragility of life. 

Perhaps, like me, you found yourself in pyjamas on a couch somewhere watching a free live stream of the event. A ‘Pyjama Critic’ likes to find themselves wrapped up in the escapism presented by the untouchable world of celebrities and galas and high fashion. We appreciate fashion just as much as comfy clothes. Regardless of our disposition, we still have a right to analyze and form our own opinions of the pieces put before the world on May 6, 2024.

As a new pajama critic it is important that you understand the difference between the theme and the dress code of this event. It is quite simple: the theme outlines the exhibit, while the dress code guides those in attendance at the exhibit’s grand opening — or the Met Gala. With this in mind, one can form opinions of the night’s designs. Critiquing these designs can become quite complex. Perhaps, a design will make a statement, but not the one intended by the dress code. Does it then deserve the praise it receives? Viewers may also witness designs that execute the dress code while failing to properly land the artistic vision. How then does a design hold up?  Here are some instances on how successful different looks are at executing their intended artistic vision, whether they align with or disregard the Met Gala dress code. 

Aligning and Falling Short

Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In this category we find designs that have a connection to the theme without necessarily achieving their own creative interpretation or attraction. Here, we find Kylie Jenner. Her look, designed by Oscar de la Renta, was created to bring the ending of Ballard’s short story to life. The use of strategic boning within the bodice of this dress presented an overtly conical bust and a train with an undisguised seam line along the rump of the gown. The dress’ double satin fabric made it appear chiseled and stone-like — similar to the conclusion of the story when the protagonist and his wife are turned into statues. This look, although supportive of the dress code, did not manage to out shine Jenner’s previous Met Gala looks. Perhaps the symbolism of this dress would come through more if the dress worked more harmoniously with the figure of its model. The issue with the dress is not that the shape is irregular but more that the shape is too fixed to itself. It seems like the dress is wearing Jenner, and not the other way around.


Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images

This category presents designs that prioritized encapsulating this year’s theme without leaving much of an impression on viewers. Mindi Kaling’s dress designed by Gaurav Gupta was breathtaking in silhouette as well as shade. The fine rhinestone detailing along the abdomen and throughout the extension of the dress was just like the magical dew drops depicted in Ballard’s short story. The styling of Kaling’s makeup and the simplicity of her hair and jewelry let the dress speak for itself. All this considered, it didn’t take long for Kaling to be shadowed by other celebrities coming up the stairs. Although this night is a celebration of art, there is certainly some sort of competition, especially when it comes to the attention of the media and paparazzi. 

Aligning And Thriving

Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

To honour the dress code while leaving audiences raving about a look is a skill mastered by only the most creative of designers. To me, the most exceptional look of the night was sported by Elle Fanning, the actress who played Aurora in Disney’s 2014 and 2019 live action Maleficent films. I believe a quote from Ballard’s short story was used to inspire this look. 

“While the final glimmer of light sped away, the Countess raised her palms to the air, as if releasing an invisible bird, then in a final access of courage put her hands in her husband’s, her smile as radiant as the vanished flower,” reads the quote.

 The dress’ design was meticulously crafted by designer Balmain to bear the feeling of magic and illusion. The sheer and shimmering qualities of the dress created by dipping organza fabric — originating in China and created from a complex and intricate weaving system — in resin truly made the dress glisten like the fictional and poetic descriptions of dissolving diamond flowers in the short story. More deliberately, the birds that seemingly pour this cascading gown onto Fanning’s shoulders make it seem like Balmain was hoping to transform Fanning into the character of the Countess herself. This dress is timeless and I would not be surprised if it was displayed with the Met gala in exhibits to come.

Disregarding and Falling Short

Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

 An outfit being overtly bland or unsightly on top of neglecting the theme of the night is typically enough to receive condescending commentary from Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue. To me, the individual who comes to mind was Doja Cat. After her controversy last year of smoking an e-cigarette on the carpet despite strict regulation against it, Doja Cat has turned up to the 2024 Met Gala with seemingly more ignorance. Wearing a floor length white tee shirt soaked in water designed by Guram Gvasalia with similarly dripping makeup, Doja Cat stood out on the carpet like a dirty towel between silk sheets. When asked, Doja Cat incited that the material of the tee shirt was cotton and that cotton is a flower. Personally, just because the design is slightly connected to florals does not mean the outfit applies to the dress code, let alone the caliber and formality of the event. After this stint, I would like to see if Wintour dares to open the doors to the Met to Doja Cat in future years — especially if anymore of her looks require a janitorial staff to mop up after them. 


Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Not meeting the dress-code — although looked down upon by some — does not necessarily mean a design is going to fall short. One can stray from the dress code of the gala and create an incredible piece simultaneously. In this category I nominate pop icon Sabrina Carpenter. Some critics argue that this dress was on theme as it was a sort of reimagined futuristic Cinderella-esc gown. This is the reason that I believe this design did not suit the dress code. As stated above, the theme and the dress code are two different concepts. Although it is advised to use the theme of the exhibition as context for designs attempting to satisfy the dress code, the theme alone should not be used to pull inspiration for these pieces. This gown — also designed by de la Renta — was hit or miss depending on who you ask. To some, the cloud-like skirt on this dress can be described as captivating and refined. Others reckon it reminds them of a chewed up piece of gum. The polarization of opinion on this gown ultimately landed it in the online land of neutrality. Perhaps if the dress stuck closer to the dress code, more people would be talking about it and not the fact that Carpenter made her first red carpet debut with Barry Keoghan at this event. 

Disregarding and Thriving

Photo by Theo Wargo/GA/The Hollywood Reporter via Getty Images

This is certainly the most controversial category to fall into. Oftentimes critics will discredit designs that appear on the Metropolitan steps if they aren’t on theme, regardless of how stunning they are. However, I believe a tasteful and trail blazing look deserves its applause, even if it was not exactly on theme. Bringing the typically conservative nature of traditional gothic art together with  boudoir fashion, Dua Lippa’s outfit designed by Marc Jacobs was memorable to say the least. Although this look made little effort to relate to the dress code, I feel the liberties taken paid off.  The artistic integrity found within each layer of this look made for an elaborate yet elegant design. It is not often one can combine a feather boa with a underbust corset and see a vision of elegance, but Marc Jacobs executed it flawlessly. 

You now have all the means to form your own opinions as a pyjama critic. A recorded live stream of the Met Gala can be found on Vogue. Also, be sure to research up and coming designers who may be taking center stage at the 2025 Met Gala. 

This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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