The would-be 2020 Met Gala - from a retrospective marvel at past gowns to the virtual present

Andre Leon Talley (L) and model Naomi Campbell attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala: Anglomania at the Metropolitan Museum of Art May 1, 2006 in New York City. Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images
Andre Leon Talley (L) and model Naomi Campbell attend the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Benefit Gala: Anglomania at the Metropolitan Museum of Art May 1, 2006 in New York City. Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images

The void created by the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow bigger in the world of fashion, as fashion weeks have been rendered almost obsolete (perhaps just temporarily so). Fast fashion has had to reconsider its "fast" descriptor, high-end/luxury brands are facing closure, there is no single LVMH Prize winner, and the biggest event on the fashion calendar - the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute's Met Gala - has been postponed indefinitely. 

READ MORE: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, there'll be no 2020 LVMH Prize winner

This news is much to the dismay of designers, fashion media, and the A-listers who would've been the awe-inspiring vessels through which the former two parties (media and designers) fulfill their Met Gala red carpet roles. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Tracee attends The 20
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lupita Nyongo attends
Tracee Ellis Ross and Lupita Nyong'o at last year's Camp-themed Met Gala. All images by Getty Images.

So the first Monday of May as we know it, sees a different script, where we reminisce on the old, predict what comes next, and alter our present with makeshift red carpet arrangements at home.

As the New York institution celebrates its 150th anniversary, the theme About Time: Fashion and Duration, is about “reimagining of fashion history that’s fragmented, discontinuous, and heterogeneous.” According to Vogue, the philosopher Henri Bergson, whose concept of la durée — time that flows, accumulates, and is indivisible — also provided some of the show’s framework. The co-chairs of 2020's would-be gala are Louis Vuitton creative director Nicolas Ghesquière, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, and Anna Wintour. No black co-chair - again, fit to the historically-charged theme. 

Andrew Bolton, Wendy Yu Curator in Charge of The Costume Institute, who found inspiration in Orlando, the 1992 film based on the Virginia Woolf novel, says, "There’s no beginning, middle, or end. It’s one big fat middle. I always felt the same about fashion. Fashion is the present.”

This theme is therefore perhaps most apt for a year where time has essentially stopped. With all our time spent indoors, days of the week bleed into weekends, making us somewhat challenge the validity and the necessity of the Gregorian calendar in this hi-tech, black mirror-esque era of the 2020s, where the word "indefinite" defines our new understanding of time.

A W24 article titled "Fashion will have to redesign itself in order to survive beyond the Covid-19 pandemic", interrogated fashion's relationship with time, while also highlighting its role in major historical events. In it, it's mentioned that "by its very definition, fashion establishes a relationship with time, and being behind the clock would compromise its purpose (the inception of trends)," further posing the question; "As a time-dependent industry, how do you dictate relevance when the arms of your delicate timepiece suddenly stop?" 

You don't. You adapt and admire the archive of shows, installations, exhibitions and Met galas past, we suppose. 

Previous Met Gala themes have given us an array of couture moments that will go down in fashion history as some of the best interpretations of art, religion, culture, sub-cultures, traditions, designer retrospectives as well as futurism. 

READ MORE: In Cape Town, Paris, New York and beyond – 5 must-see virtual fashion exhibitions as we lockdown 

This is why E! Entertainment - the channel that once gave us Fashion Police with Joan Rivers' controversial musings on red carpet fashion - will air a Met Gala special this week. The Met Gala: Ultimate Fashion Moments special will give those at home (so... everybody), including the stars who would have twinkled on the first Monday of May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, their couture fix without even leaving the couch. 

The hour-long special set for Tuesday 5 May at 20:00 CAT on E! (DStv channel 124) is jam-packed with content from the Met Galas of the past, which obviously includes the celebrities who've become highly anticipated regulars. 

With the help of E! style correspondent Zanna Roberts Rassi and celebrity stylist Brad Goreski, E! will be counting down the top 10 best arrivals of all time on air and on Twitter. Think Blake Lively in 2018 with the "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" theme, or Madonna in 2016 with "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology." There's a ton of never-before-seen footage, too — including new interviews with all of your favourite stars. 

Of course, the Met Gala men will have their moment, too. Who can forget Billy Porter and his golden wings? 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Billy Porter attends

They'll also be featured throughout a look back at some of the hottest couples to attend the Met Gala over the years: Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez, who have been in sync from 2017 to 2019; George and Amal Clooney, who were the most-talked-about couple in 2015 and 2018; and Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, who made their first and last appearance as a couple in 2019, among others. 

READ MORE: Billy Porter sees fashion as an expression of who he is, plus our top picks from his recent looks

Also ensuring that our annual feelings of excitement around the Met Gala remain high, is the High Fashion Twitter account (Hf Twitter community) that is hosting their own Met Gala on the social media app in the spirit of creating “an online space where fantasy reigns supreme and impracticality does not exist.” This online community is calling all “fashion enthusiasts from around the world to share and express their unique creative visions without real-world inhibitions.” 

There is a number of categories participants can take part in. 

These include 'Photoset Creation’ where you showcase the looks you’d wear on the red carpet, the ‘Brand Challenge’ which aims to punt lesser-known brands, ‘Illustration Expression’ which calls upon illustrators to flex their fashion sketching muscles, and ‘Wardrobe Styling’ which is all about promoting sustainable fashion by encouraging virtual guests to share outfits styled with clothes they already own. 

READ MORE: BAFTA attendees were urged to wear sustainable outfits, but only a few reduced their carbon footprint on this red carpet

If you follow the official Twitter account (@HFMetGala), you'll be delighted to find that there are participants who have already posted their looks under the #HFMetGala2020 hashtag, while also getting a heads-up here and there about informative IG live events by various fashion media authorities and correspondents. You'll also be glad to find out that the HF Met Gala is raising funds for the The International Medical Corps by releasing an e-book available on 11 May 2020, which will be available for purchase for $5 (about R95). You may also donate more than $5 and the good news is you can do so immediately. 

So if you want to participate in the HF Met Gala festivities, we've got some inspo in the form of a look back at some of (there are plenty, but we had to pick only a few) the incredible style moments from years past: 


2015: This Guo Pei gown was perhaps one of the most epic and memorable gowns that has ever cascaded down those stairs. 

best met gala looks

2017: Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between' 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Rihanna attends Rei Kawaku

2018: “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination”, showing up as the Pope in an ensemble designed by Margiela, and the crowd said Amen!  

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Rihanna at Metropolitan Mu


The 'Almeda' singer loves a 3D creation for the Met Gala. 

2018: In Iris van Herpen and a durag with the words "My God wears a durag" for the 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination' theme. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Solange Knowles attends th

2016: In David Laport for the Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology theme.  

best met gala looks

2015: In a structural Giles dress for 'China: Through the Looking Glass.'   

best met gala looks


As Joan of Arc in Versace for the 2028 Met Gala. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 07: Actor Zendaya attends the

Kim Kardashian West 

Art in motion 'drenched' in Thierry Mugler for 2019's Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion theme. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Kim Kardashian West attend

READ MORE: Feathers, frills and fairy tale gowns - all the extravagant looks we loved from the Met Gala 2019 red carpet

Lady Gaga

Also for the Camp theme, giving us a complete Brandon Maxwell experience in four pictures. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lady Gaga attends The
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lady Gaga attends The
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lady Gaga attends The
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Lady Gaga attends The

Diana Ross

Diana Ross attends the Costume Institute Benefit Gala sponsored by Gucci April 28, 2003 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. (Photo by Gucci via Getty Images) 

NEW YORK - APRIL 28: (TABLOIDS OUT) Diana Ross att

Daria Werbowy

In Azzedine Alaia, 2007.  

NEW YORK CITY, NY - MAY 7: Daria Werbowy attends T

Olsen twins

Ashley Olsen in vintage Gianfranco Ferré and Mary-Kate Olsen in vintage Chanel, 2014. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 05: Ashley Olsen and Mary Kate

Ashley Olsen in Dior for "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" exhibition, 2013. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Ashley Olsen attends the C

Naomi Campbell  

With Andre Leon Talley for the 'Anglomania' exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art May 1, 2006. 

A look back at the best met gala looks

Sarah Jessica Parker 

In Phillip Treacy and Giles Deacon for the 2013 "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" exhibition.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Actress Sarah Jessica Park


2013: "PUNK: Chaos to Couture" in Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci. 

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 06: Madonna attends the Costum

2011: Madonna attends the "Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty" Costume Institute Gala in Stella McCartney.  

a look back at the best met gala looks

What were your favourite Met Gala looks from the past? Share them with us on our Instagram or Twitter pages. 

All images: Getty

Additional information provided by Total Exposure on behalf of E!

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