/ 31 March 2023

Friday is a feeling | Met Gala fashion hall of fame

Rihanna attends the "China: Through The Looking Glass" Costume Institute Benefit Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 / Getty Images

My first interaction with fashion was watching my mother get ready to go out as a tween. Now that I think about it, back in the day, my mother was 100% certified that bitch, to quote Lizzo! 

You know why I say that? We lived in Meadowlands Zone 10 and my mom used to dress like she was going to hop into a Mercedes-Benz, instead of an E-20 minibus taxi to the Jozi CBD. I’m not even exaggerating. 

I would watch her in our three-roomed house, as she pulled her flesh-tone stockings up from her ankles to her thighs and slowly clipped each suspender, only to cover them with a long skirt which hid the low-key-sexy-librarian look underneath. 

Her perm — yes, you read right, I said perm, kids — would be slicked back and some of the oil would drip on her Pierre Cardin shirt, but who cared — it was fashion. 

My mom had these long, black boots that reminded me of her 1980s idols like Donna Summer. On the days she didn’t wear them, I would watch her get ready and, after she left, I would put my tiny eight-year-old feet in her six-inch boots and they would swallow me up to my waist. I would try to strut like her around my grandparents’ little bedroom but I couldn’t quite imitate her swagger. 

Later, as a 20-year-old, my sister would confess when I was a teenager in the 90s, she would wear my clothes after I’d left to meet friends at Le Club to dance to hip-hop and eat Pizza Hut at Carlton Centre’s food court. 

“I would put everything back exactly as I found it, so you wouldn’t suspect I had been through your stuff,” confessed my sister, sweetly. 

At the time, I was wearing Doc Martens, baggy jeans and small backpacks. Basically everything that’s in style right now. 

I wasn’t aware that I was inspiring my sister the way my mom had inspired me earlier. My sister would go on to wear platform shoes as early as 12 years old. There’s a cute picture at our house of my sis in her platform heels, dwarfing my mom, who had by then abandoned the sexy librarian look for a more yummy, but safe and sophisticated, mommy look. 

By the time the early 2000s came, I was a disciple of award shows, watching Joan Rivers roast A-listers on the red carpet and waking up at 3am to watch all the shows — never mind that I had work a couple of hours later — to see my favourites in fabulous designer wear. 

By the time I watched the Diana Vreeland documentary The Eye Has to Travel, I was fully immersed in the world of fashion and knew I was a runway/fashion devotee. 

But, as award shows got longer and longer, and red carpets started getting stranger and stranger, my interest started to wane. To be fair, I also had no clue who some of the people who walked the red carpet were, but you better believe the Tuesday after the first Monday in May, I would be up, checking out the looks from the Met Gala. 

Trevor Noah was lambasted for wearing a “meh” Off-White suit and T-shirt in 2019 but none of us had a clue that, a couple of years later, Virgil Abloh would be gone. 

Some of my most iconic Met Gala looks include Kim Kardashian in custom Mugler. Sis couldn’t sit down or eat but the look was unforgettable. 

(By the way, the rumour about the Kardashians not being invited to the Met Gala this year is false. Anna Wintour, the Met’s chair, is a snob but she doesn’t play when it comes to publicity. )

Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine was exquisite in 2012’s “Schiaparelli and Prada” theme. Honourable mentions include Lupita Nyong’o, Lady Gaga and J Lo, sparkling in Versace in 2019.  

But the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Met Gala red carpet is none other than fellow Pisces, her royal self-made billionairess and official Bad Gal, Rihanna. In 2012, she teamed up with Tom Ford in a crocodile-embellished black number. The theme in 2018 was “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and she snatched everyone’s wig in John Galliano’s custom Maison Margiela look, finished off with metallic Christian Louboutins. 

She had solidified her place in the Met Gala fashion hall of fame three years earlier when she arrived at the “China Through the Looking Glass” theme in 2015 wearing a gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei. 

It would be dubbed “The Omelette Dress” by fashionistas and the internet — both facetiously and in reverence for the sheer audacity of the volume of the dress. 

“It all had to be choreographed and I had six people helping me up the red carpet,” said the Barbados native during a taping of The Graham Norton Show. Vogue editor at large, the late André Leon Talley, was quoted as saying that Rihanna’s trending yellow number, which took Pei two years to construct, was “the best Met Gala look of all time”. 

This year’s “A Line of Beauty” is the second time that a Met Gala theme has been dedicated to legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld. 

A tricky choice considering the late Chanel designer was quite controversial towards the end of his professional life, fat-shaming and saying some suspect things in the media. 

However, on 1 May, we’ll find out who’s invited and who isn’t (rumours are Wintour is “tightening” the invite list) but one thing I know is I’ll be watching the socials the next day because staying up to 3am to watch the Met is so BC — Before Covid.