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MET Gala

Fashion, History, On the Carpet, On the Street

Met Gala – We still ain’t over it

May 15, 2017

 

By Dominique M. Davis

Eric already ran down the tea but I wanted to review the Met Gala from a lens of art being a realistic and economically viable career path. I wonder how often we as a society steer away from pursuing dreams and the creative arts from a lack of knowledge about the career paths and opportunities the field has to offer. Or maybe, I’m just speaking from personal experience, but had I known all of the different options that were available in the creative arts space and the ability to parlay academia into a creative niche I might have taken other paths in college. Or for that matter an overall working knowledge of multiple career paths in general. The ability to choose and make informed decisions in planning for one’s future is diminished by ignorance. So often in communities of color the lack of knowledge becomes the burden of the oppressed which can lead to a perpetual cycle of paucity; not only economically but in intellectual capacity. Scarcity of resources and financial means to support one’s self reduces higher order thinking in that the basic needs for self actualization are difficult to achieve under those circumstances. So the cycle of poverty persists. Reduced funding for school programs in communities heavily populated by black and brown people makes the access to career paths even more challenging.

The Former First Lady recognized the need for arts in education and led a national campaign to re-engage arts education in early childhood and elementary schools. The arts is and has been a source for escapism in transforming intangible concepts of pain and love into tangible, physical material. Symbolic representations have the ability to create space for dialogue, reflection, self expression and serve as a conduit or vessel for cultural exchange. The use of the arts as a practical tool in education could provide youth the skills to utilize multiple forms of intelligence and develop transferable skills for careers, having the ability to separate vocation from avocation or combine the two. Knowledge or lack thereof is one of the biggest challenges with gaining access to opportunities.

We know the Met Gala started as the annual fundraising benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. But what you probably didn’t know is that the Costume Institute was started by two women who’s life work was rooted in community social work. Irene and Alice Lewisohn worked at the Henry Street Settlement house which worked with immigrant families from underserved communities in New York City. The Anna Wintour Costume Center is the home of the collection of The Costume Institute and was formally opened by Former First Lady Michelle Obama of the United States of America.

It’s our duty as leaders of the future to recognize talent and assist with the progression of transforming communities by providing information to the un or misinformed, and directing peoples to resources. How does this all relate to pop culture and the Met Gala? The arts have provided a national platform to combine social work initiatives with creative expression. To understand and realize that such careers exist and are attainable is the work that needs and must continue to be among the conversation when structuring early childhood and educational programming for students. Leaders recognize the need for change and work to achieve to make it happen.

Fashion, Glamourtunist, On the Carpet, WERK!

Black Women STAY Saving the Met Gala Red Carpet

May 2, 2017

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

To remix the first line of Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s novel “Paradise,” they SLAYED the white girls first, with the others they took their time.

When people say “it’s no shade,” they usually mean it’s shade, but what follows is not shade it’s just a fact. Black women stay saving the Met Gala red carpet. And before you come for me please know, to quote another verbal genius Ms. Nene Leakes, “I said what I said.”

Come on ya’ll, if Rihanna, Solange, and Beyonce all collectively decide not to attend there is probably not a reason to hold this thing.

Everyone should phone it in, ring up Mother Anna Wintour of the House of Vogue, and call in sick that day. This red carpet is the Oscars of fashion, it should not be anything like any other red carpet, and yet the only people who dress to make it feel that way are pretty much Black women. And this year, with Tracee Ellis Ross, Helen Lasichanh, and Zendaya all deciding they to have come to collect our edges, it is ever more undeniable and this year, just like every year, there are receipts.

For those who do not know, every year since 1971 the Met Gala is always built around a theme. It is usual that the theme intersects with the theme of an exhibit that has been curated for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute. Themes in recent years include 2013’s “Punk: Chaos to Couture,” 2014’s “Charles James: Beyond Fashion,” 2015’s “China: Through the Looking Glass,” and 2016’s “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.”

The theme of this year’s gala was “Rei Kawakubo/Commes des Garçons,” a retrospective of the work of the legendary fashion designer and her fashion label which has been at the forefront of fashion for 44 years. Kawakubo, who the New York Times calls the “oracle of fashion,” has always sat atop her perch pushing fashion beyond the boundaries of how they think about the shape, texture, color of a garment, but also beyond the limits of the industry and its preconceived notions of the body itself.

With such an imaginative, courageous, and exciting sartorial visionary as the theme everybody was ready for this Met Gala to take us to and over the edge, just like Kawakubo. WEEEEELL, I am not sure where everybody else’s memo about the theme of the show went, but apparently only Black women got it. 

As I watched the red carpet unfold, one person after the next took to the carpet in pretty gowns, wonderful make-up, hair done for the Gods (or in the case of Jaden Smith, hair cut off and fashioned into a bouquet of locs), and I was completely and utterly surprised and also bored, bored, bored. Only a sprinkling of people seemed to dress with Kawakubo and Commes des Garçons in mind.

There were only a sprinkling of folks who rose to the occasion, which is great, but they are the same people that ALWAYS rise to the occasion.  Rihanna, who is basically a couture wonder woman at the Met Gala EVERY. DAMN. YEAR.

Rihanna at the Met Gala 2015-2011 (left of screen to right)

Riri read her mail and was like, I don’t know what the rest of these people are wearing to the Commes des Garçons-themed Met Gala, but I think I’ll wear…wait for it…Commes des Garçons!

No, I am not saying all you have to do is wear the designer that best fits the theme in order to slay. That could go basic and wrong too. There are tons of examples of that in previous years actually. But, it would be a great start, especially with an aesthetic so well defined, known, and celebrated throughout the industry for over four decades.

I don’t know who these stylists who sent people to the Met Gala in junior prom dresses are. Whoever told them that if their client wore the same basic thing one could (and they do!) wear to the twenty thousand awards shows before and after the Met Gala that they would win them the “Gag Award” LIED, lied big time. Why they put their clients in looks that are violently opposed to Kawakubo’s own aesthetic or the idea of avant grade is a mystery only Jessica Fletcher can solve, but either way they are definitely doing their clients a disservice.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe they take a medicalized “first do no harm” approach to fashion, and are more content to be on the safe list and not the standout list, but in the economy of celebrity isn’t standing out actually the point? You can’t stand out with no risk. As my grandmama taught me, you gotta bring some to get some.

Next to Rihanna was also Tracee Ellis Ross, who must have heard that Zendaya was gonna come dressed like her mama circa the 1970s (and that’s no shade, Zendaya looked amazing and was, aesthetically, still in the wheelhouse of Comme des Garçon serving us volume, volume, volume head to toe in Dolce and Gabbana!) …

Zendaya

 

… and so Tracee decided she, like Rihanna would work with the fashion challenge for the evening and wear Commes des Garçons too. And thank God she did!

Tracee Ellis Ross

And there were others. Helen Lasicanh, the partner of Pharrell Williams clearly read her mail:

Solange, another person we can count on every single year. I present the receipts:

2016

2015

And this year she continued to bring it, gave us something to talk about, and was gorgeous as always.

Solange wearing Thom Browne at the Met Gala, 2017

 

Do note that this is NOT Kawakubo/Commes des Garçons. This look Solange is wearing is by the always exciting Thom Browne. When I saw it I thought for sure it was Rei Kawakubo’s work, and I was wrong. But the fact that I even thought it was Kawakubo is a good look on Browne and Solange, they get it. This look is totally in the Browne wheelhouse and plays with some of the house codes of Kawakubo’s aesthetic. Thom Browne, someone who like Kawakubo pushes the envelope in menswear and womenswear season after season, gets why you can’t be basic on tonight and gave us something memorable. Sure, Buzz feed joked that Solange’s look was reminiscent of a sleeping bag for a camping trip, BUT they also said she still looked better than everybody else throwing her shade for her REI fashionS. She wins. I rest my case.

To be fair, there were some Black women who came on this beautiful but predictable red carpet too. Kerry Washington, Naomi Campbell, Halle Berry. All wore fabulous gowns and on any other night would be on a best dressed list for me, but on THIS NIGHT they faded into the background. They know better and needed to do better. Also, let me acknowledge that not all white women came to be safe and sad, but I just think Beyonce called them and was like “hey Katy Perry, hey Julianne Moore: I’m not going to make it this year, I am too busy posing in a couture toilet paper hat and bikini for my baby shower pictures. Can ya’ll come to slay and help my sister and Rihanna out?” And they was like, “yeah, we got you.” So we gonna log that too under Black women saving things, even if this conversation only occurred in my head (paints nails). Shout out to Katy Perry and Julianne Moore who came with it too. I was intrigued for sure, I mean it.  And Pryiyanka Chopra, I see you in that Ralph Lauren trench coat dress. You too came to slay!

Anyway, Beyonce, we’ll be waiting for your return. We would have loved to see what you would have done with the theme, and we missed all of this last night:

 

Here’s hoping at Met Gala 2018 you, Rihanna, Solange, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Helen Lasicanh will have even more company.

Fashion, On the Carpet, On the Street

Are Dress Codes No Longer A Thing? (Fashion Conscious: A Column)

June 6, 2016

by Dominique Michelle Davis

In a recent discussion with a close friend the topic of appropriate dress attire was debated. I took personal offense to the attire worn to a business casual event and said as much, which got my gears grinding about the inception of formal dress codes and the purposes behind them. I went to my Emily Post book and scanned a few articles about western and eastern dress codes and the class and social status that dress can portray. There was clear evidence of a haves and the have not’s formation in the writing there, so it imagined people as being either wealthy or poor. Are we seeing a reduction in dress due to a reduction of the middle class? Or is it pure rebellion against restricted social structures that pre-approve style trends?

Emily_Post_etichette_good-manners

Post is the author of the legendary etiquette guide. It is either loved or hated or some combo of both.

As a person who questions all forms of conformity within society I really had to think about why this particular issue bothered me so. I saw my friend as an extension of me, which was something (his attire) and someone I couldn’t control. I took personal umbrage because I knew that he was aware of the rules and chose not to oblige, yet, I choose to break dress code rules as a way to establish individual style and personal preference all the time.The great thing about people pushing back against codes of appropriate dress is that it encourages individuals who choose not to follow traditional and conservative paths of dress to the work of developing cultures and norms off the beaten path, something that could also then extend into their pursuing career fields and environments more accepting of their individual expression (or perhaps even changing the sense of what is and is not appropriate dress in some of those more restricting and conservative fields).

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A glimpse at some perceptions about acceptable and unacceptable work clothes.

The free spirit and conservative conformist within me polarizes my thoughts and led me to a temporary state of confusion and concluded with why do I even care how another person chooses to dress? I know from personal experience that I loathe when people try to dress me in what they deem to be appropriate for the context or setting, but sometimes it’s just easier to get along and go along than to stand my ground on the issue. Some battles just aren’t worth it. Some days I wish I could just go to work in jeans and a t-shirt. It’s not as if my intellectual capacity is in any way affected by my outward appearance. SO again, why was I so bothered?

The answer for me, and for many, is that what has been impressed as acceptable has molded my view for dress codes to be in alignment with venue and social settings. Deep down I admired my friend’s ability not to care about what other people think, yet his choice to choose that setting to make a point to be an individual had me less than pleased. My ability to recognize my conformity to rigid social structures of dress has helped to create a voice that I never knew could coexist with following a set of rules imposed against what some may call free will. It is important to also consider, put simply, that these rules are often in place to create new structures for disciplining people on the basis of their identity – especially gender, sexuality, race, and age – and that this too is reason to be very critical about too while also investigating our individual belief systems about dress codes. That is, what is the underlying statement or implication for statements we make about the dress of others particularly as it relates to systems of oppression, marginalization, and injustice?

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The Patriarchy always got something to say about fashion. These are facts.

In 2016 where the rule stands to be there are no rules, or moving further along those lines, do dress codes even still exist? And when is it ok to make a fashion faux pas? Kanye West’s recent display at the Met Gala speaks to previous writings by Dr. Eric Darnell Pritchard in an essay for Ebony Magazine called “Who Gets to Make a Social Fashion Statement?” In some respect, lending credence to artists who have created a platform have the ability to make socially conscious or unconscious statements with dress is a win for everyone as it disrupts rigid belief systems of propriety that limit who can and cannot transgress in everyday life.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Kanye West attends "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

photo credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Met-Ball-Best-Dressed-Kanye-West-3x4

We don’t know about these blue eyes, but I am here for this Balmain Trucker jacket and YSL boots though.

I am in no way in support of the blue eyed contacts Kanye wore to the MET Gala, or even suggesting that Mr. West was making a socially conscious statement, but one does have to question why he chose that venue, that setting and that platform to make a world debut of a clearly statement on representation and race by wearing blue eyed contacts after creating recent songs such as “Black Skinhead” and “Blood of the Leaves,” I’m just saying. I’m really interested in understanding his thoughts with his latest fashion statement and how it, as an example, might inform my larger comment here about social spaces and appropriate dress. Kanye’s introduction to the black skinned blue-eyed West was probably the most appropriate place to display his break. Maybe he actually knows the Bluest Eye and will enlighten us in his new album; title yet unknown.

Dress codes, and a lack thereof, ranging from white tie to grunge all fall within an economic class, and in many cases a performance of race, that has been normed by those included to be an inclusive safe haven. I think about a quote from Emily Post, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.” Fashion, personal style and dress codes create an outward outlet for freedom of expression, which also has the ability to offend our delicate sensibilities when it doesn’t align with constructed worldview that we’ve created. In this respect we see how the feelings of others can be both something that liberates, but also in the case if dress codes, can constrain and regulate people across difference and individual as well as communal modes of style for expression. Kudos to those who create their own lane, it takes courage to break the mold. Just maybe give those of us who aren’t prepared a heads up? Even if you do not give a heads up, there always seems to be a code to be included regardless. The code when you are breaking the social norm is you are not to be trusted because here comes trouble. It is worth it to think about what that response to dress code transgressions mean and what effect they have for the transgressors and also the transgressed.