What Is This Year’s Met Gala Theme? A Brief Explainer

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What Is This Year’s Met Gala Theme? A Brief Explainer
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Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On Monday, May 2—that is, per the documentary title, the first Monday in May—the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute will host the annual Met Gala, the star-studded evening referred to by many as “the Super Bowl of fashion.”

The theme this year is “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology”—which, we should clarify, has nothing to do with the recent award-winning film Ex Machina, except for the fact that Alicia Vikander will no doubt be in attendance—and the attendant exhibition will be open to the public May 5 through August 14.

So, what should you expect? Well, we got a peek at a few of the pieces from the show during New York Fashion Week, and heard from curator-in-charge Andrew Bolton, who explained that the exhibit will explore the interplay between traditional handmade (the “manus”) and technological machine-made (the “machina”) techniques. There will be examples of the time-honored haute-couture crafts, like featherwork and embroidery, alongside 21st-century methods like 3-D printing and computer-generated patterns. Rather than pit the two sides against one another, however, the show will demonstrate how they have been used in tandem since the advent of the sewing machine—which, as Bolton pointed out, coincided with the birth of haute couture.

One of the most eye-catching pieces on display, Chanel’s Fall 2014 bridal gown, for instance, took 450 hours of labor to produce, and involved hand painting, computer manipulation, machine printing, and hand-embroidery.

On the red carpet—which, for the first time ever, will be broadcast live on E!—expect celebrities and designers to use the opportunity to play with ideas of wearable technology and futuristic fashion.

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Wedding ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), Autumn/Winter 2014–15 haute couture, back view.

Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection.

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ensemble, Karl Lagerfeld (French, born Hamburg, 1938) for House of Chanel (French, founded 1913), Autumn/Winter 2015–2016 haute couture.

Courtesy of CHANEL Patrimoine Collection.

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ensemble, Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984), Spring/Summer 2010 haute couture.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015 (2016.16a, b).

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ensemble, Raf Simons (Belgian, born 1968) for House of Dior (French, founded 1947), Spring/Summer 2015 haute couture.

Courtesy of Christian Dior Haute Couture.

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Flying Saucer” Dress, Issey Miyake (Japanese, born 1938) for Miyake Design Studio (Japanese, founded 1970), Spring/Summer 1994.

Courtesy of The Miyake Issey Foundation.

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Vilmiron” Dress, Christian Dior (French, 1905–1957), Spring/Summer 1952 haute couture.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Byron C. Foy, 1955 (C.I.55.76.20a–g).

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, Iris van Herpen (Dutch, born 1984), Autumn/Winter 2013–14 haute couture.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2015 (2016.14).

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, Nicolas Ghesquière (French, born 1971) for House of Balenciaga (French, founded 1937), Spring/Summer 2003.

Courtesy of Balenciaga Archives, Paris. 

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Kaikoku” Floating Dress, Hussein Chalayan (British, born Cyprus, 1970), Autumn/Winter 2011–12.

Courtesy of Swarovski.

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dress, Christopher Kane (British, born 1982), Spring/Summer 2014.

Courtesy of Christopher Kane.

Photo: Nicholas Alan Cope/The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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