Why the Met Gala 2020 Theme Couldn’t Be More ‘Time’-ly

When the first Monday in May rolls around next week, the Met Gala won’t be happening. But that doesn’t mean that its time-focused theme will be lost on us.

When the Costume Institute first announced the theme,  “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” it came with the news that 2020 would mark the 150th anniversary for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It made sense that the Costume Institute’s annual exhibition would have a retrospective lean for the museum’s big birthday, looking back on decades of fashion and how it has played a role in tracking time.

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Janelle Monae at the 2019 Met Gala. The “camp” theme marked a progressive view of culture and fashion reflected in last year.
CREDIT: Rex/Shutterstock

“Fashion is indelibly connected to time,” said Andrew Bolton, the Costume Institute’s curator, when the news broke in November. “It not only reflects and represents the spirit of the times, but it also changes and develops with the times, serving as an especially sensitive and accurate timepiece. Through a series of chronologies, the exhibition will use the concept of duration to analyze the temporal twists and turns of fashion history.”

Fast forward to now, in an unprecedented way of life during a global pandemic, and the idea of “temporal twists and turns” couldn’t feel more, well, timely. As everyone sits at home, waiting for the world to return to normal — or anticipating what a “new normal” might look like, the very idea of time has begun to slip away. “What day is it?” has been a oft-spoken joke on Instagram lately.

It’s also been a rare moment of genuine reflection, something for which our usual jam-packed schedules haven’t offered us the — you guessed it — time. That sense of introspection has been extended to the fashion industry as a whole:  Without the frenetic pace of a bloated calendar, it is finally taking a moment to try and sort out what a new, more modern — and inclusive — version of fashion can look for the future.

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Billy Porter at the 2019 Met Gala. The actor has been challenging his followers to recreate his look and other creative outfits at home in his #BillyPorterFashionChallenge.
CREDIT: Rex/Shutterstock

We are likely to get a preview of that new future of inclusivity on Monday, when High Fashion Twitter hosts its own virtual version of the Met Gala. If all goes as planned, this online community made up of fashion-obsessed Gen Z’ers may give a whole new layer to the annual event, which in recent years has become one most exclusive in fashion-and-celeb sphere. We are also waiting to see what Billy Porter may do in the spirt of the First Monday in May; he’s already been challenging his Instagram followers to dress creatively at home in his #BillyPorterFashionChallenge.

And how will we interpret the actual exhibition when it finally (maybe?) opens on October 29? Well, only time will tell.

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