Met Gala 2024: What does the Garden Of Time theme mean?

Think gothic florals and trailing foliage with a historical edge at this most flamboyant of fashion shows

This outfit from the Alexander McQueen autumn/winter 2006 collection would suit the 2024 Met Gala theme. Photo: Michel Dufour / WireImage
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The Met Gala dress code for 2024 has been unveiled as The Garden of Time.

Taking place on the first Monday each May – so May 6 this year – the gala is one of fashion's most flamboyant events (which is saying something), where the great and good turn out dressed to the nines. Fashion designers go into overdrive creating one-of-a-kind pieces for the event, while stylists pull in every favour to secure the It look for their celebrity clients.

The annual event is essentially a fund-raiser for the Costume Institute – the fashion and textiles arm of the Metropolitan Museum in New York – and is themed around the corresponding exhibition, for which the gala acts as the opening night.

The exhibition this year is called Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion. Far from being about the Disney fairy tale, it is a more oblique discussion of the fragility of clothes, nature and ultimately life itself.

Drawing from the institute's huge archive, curator Andrew Boltan has unearthed pieces that stretch back decades, some even centuries, to map the passage of time.

Pieces on show will include an Elizabethan bodice from the early 1600s – almost too fragile to be handled – and an evening cape by Charles Frederick Worth from 1889, which has tulips woven into the fabric.

The show will be broken into sections, which this year will be Land, Sea and Sky, and together will journey through delicate, historical items through to contemporary pieces.

The burning question is what will people wear. The most obvious route is for guests to dress as for a garden party – decked in florals and trailing foliage.

The recent haute couture shows in Paris revealed many gala-apt pieces. Case in point Valentino, which referenced florals as a giant ruffle top with a simple tweed pencil skirt; and Simone Rocha, the guest designer at Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, who created an all-black look covered in tiny flowers at the end of long stems.

Elsewhere, the haute couture offering from Maison Margiela offers a darker take, with a collection that is almost troubling yet utterly beautiful – perfect, then, for this theme. Built around the undesirables of 1950s Paris nightlife, the collection is filled with vintage-looking pieces that are artfully distressed and undone, for a fragile, human feel.

For guests who want to explore the darker side of the exhibition, vintage Alexander McQueen, designed by the man himself, would also be a good place to start. With an exquisite fascination with the macabre, Lee McQueen often referenced death and decay, such as his autumn-winter 2006 collection that had headpieces made from dead birds.

For a prettier, more light-hearted take, the spring/summer 2009 collection by Dolce & Gabbana ended with a parade of pastel gowns smothered in fabric flowers, while the recent spring 2024 haute couture by Giambattista Valli was also about flowers – now realised as great puffs of floral taffeta.

Those able to source vintage Christian Lacroix will be on to a winner, with the brand's rich references to historical figures such as Marie Antoinette – and her violent demise. Vivienne Westwood, too, has reworked the corsetry of old, turning it from a symbol of female restriction into a powerful statement of emancipation.

Joining fashion editor Anna Wintour as co-chairs this year will be Zendaya, Jennifer Lopez, Bad Bunny and Chris Hemsworth. With Zendaya already well known for her daring dress sense, we can expect a sartorial showdown with that other fearless style maven Rihanna.

With the Diamonds singer also boasting a reputation for bringing the drama, and for making late, spectacular entrances, we are in for a treat, roses or otherwise.

Updated: February 16, 2024, 10:49 AM