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#MetGalaChallenge: The Creative Journeys Behind Our Favorite DIY'd Met Gala Looks

Composite image of three women DIY’ing dresses; on the left a woman kneels on one leg in front of her dress-making form while wrapping tape around a grey styrofoam tube; in the middle a woman’s face is veiled by the sheer pink tulle as she passes it through a sewing machine; on the right a woman applies red paper cut-outs to the bodice of a dress form.

Kassandra Hazlehurst (@hazkas), an architectural designer from Mt. Vernon, Aletheia Olear (@gotchacoveredfashion), a fashion design student at Arizona State University, and Karina Bondareva (@thisisbykarina), a third-year fashion design student at Central Saint Martins, London, all hard at work re-creating their favorite Met Gala looks.

This past Monday was the first Monday in May—usually the day that The Costume Institute celebrates its spring exhibition opening with an annual benefit, The Met Gala. At the event supported by the fashion industry, designers and notable guests dress in black-tie attire based on the exhibition's subject. The party is The Costume Institute's primary source of annual funding (Learn about The Costume Institute.)

This year, due to the global pandemic, the exhibition, About Time: Fashion and Duration, will open on October 29 and the date of the Gala is under discussion. In lieu of this iconic event, Vogue and Billy Porter started the #MetGalaChallenge, inviting everyone at home to re-create their favorite red carpet looks of past galas.

In these uncertain times, we're inspired by everyone who took on this challenge to create ambitious garments for a virtual party, using only the supplies they had on hand. Not only did they transform everyday essentials (like paper, tin foil, and packing material) into showstopping pieces, they also made their inspirations all their own.

We reached out to fourteen of our favorites to learn firsthand what went into making these looks. The first Monday has come and gone, but here's a look at looks-from-home that have made a lasting impression. 

 

A Household Extravaganza

Shay Rose (@crescentshay), a third-year communication studies student at University of California, Los Angeles, re-creates Lady Gaga's 2019 look designed by Brandon Maxwell.

When Shay Rose, based in Los Angeles, started, she only planned to create one of Lady Gaga's four looks from 2019. But after watching interviews with Gaga and recalling her own experience watching the singer surprise onlookers with multiple outfit reveals, she decided to "go big or go home" . . . at home!

As a hobby seamstress and cosplayer, she had plenty of sewing craft supplies around. But she also got creative with some household items—namely a laundry basket. It formed the big hip piece that creates the distinctive, dramatic silhouette.

After a week of creating, she knew photos wouldn't be enough to capture the different looks. She explained, "I convinced my dad to dress up in a suit and help me through all the transitions, while my mom filmed it in our backyard! Overall it was a really fun challenge that got me making stuff while stuck at home, and even got my whole family involved in some way."

 

A Photographer's Backdrop Takes Center Stage

Franz Szony (@franzszony), a photographer based in Los Angeles, re-creates Lady Gaga's pink gown by Brandon Maxwell.

Los Angeles photographer Franz Szony created what he called an "impressionistic" take on Lady Gaga's 2019 gown out of a large roll of fuchsia backdrop paper. He finished the look with screws and nails for eyelashes. Looking at the final photograph, you might never guess Franz made it in his backyard. He admitted, "Running back and forth to my camera was no easy task, but I love the process of self-portraiture, and I'm sure I thoroughly entertained my neighbors!"

On why he chose to re-create the look: "Something about the bows and panniers seemed reminiscent of a 'Pop Art' version of a period gown, which I love. It's such an incredible color, and the fabric moved like a giant glamorous parachute . . . not to mention I adore Gaga. Maybe one day I'll get to wrap her in paper and take her portrait too . . . that would be a dream come true."

 

Fading Paper, Lasting Impression

Karina Bondareva (@thisisbykarina), a third-year fashion design student at Central Saint Martins, London, re-creates Cardi B's 2019 gown designed by Thom Browne.

Karina Bondareva's creation is a perfect inspiration for how to make the most of any situation. Bondareva, based in London, was supposed to travel to New York to assist a designer in preparation for The Met Gala, but her plans were put on pause. So she committed herself fully to this challenge.

While searching her home for supplies, she found a pack of red paper by a window, becoming discolored by the sunlight. She explained, "Essentially the color was chosen for me there and then. The rest was simple, Cardi's was the most memorable red look in my eyes and the most unrealistic to re-create in paper, hence my passion grew to make this project successful!"

The construction, however, was more elaborate. Taking cues from her recent internship on Savile Row, Bondareva made bespoke fashion using untraditional supplies: two packs of red paper, two rolls of industrial cling film, three roles of tape, one hundred and twenty glue gun sticks, and some duvet wadding. She explained, "I sculpted the cling film and wadding to fit around my body like a mould, on top of which I then glued the paper. The process was intense and I worked at least twelve hours per day for six days to get it made on time."

So after all the effort, what's the afterlife of such dramatic occasionwear? After the challenge, she upcycled the dress into a permanent wall art piece.

 

Florally Blown Away

Akihiro (@akihiro9979), a high school student and trumpet player for his school's band, from Ayase, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, re-creates Cole Sprouse's 2019 Met Gala look designed by Salvatore Ferragamo.

After spotting the #MetGalaChallenge, 15-year-old Akihiro from Ayase, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, decided to go for the Cole Sprouse look, remembering a photograph of Sprouse and Lili Reinhart he saw in Teen Vogue. He wanted something "simple, yet classy and campy at the same time." He started making his look at 6 am and finished around 3 pm—the individual flower embellishments were the most time-consuming elements.

According to Akihiro, making the outfit was easier than taking the photos. Strong winds just outside his home led to a wardrobe malfunction—he had to reattach his flower embellishments. But you'd never guess looking at his final capture, which embodies his end goal: "Something powerful and model-like." Quite the professional in the making.

 

A Wonderful Universe of Elements and Techniques

Aletheia Olear (@gotchacoveredfashion), a fashion design student at Arizona State University, re-creates Zendaya's 2017 dress designed by Dolce and Gabbana.

Aletheia Olear, a fashion student at Arizona State University, loves fashion because of how it "allows so many different art forms to coexist in the same space to make something wonderful." It's a declaration that equally applies to her #MetGalaChallenge creation—an enchanting universe of parts, materials, and techniques. The base for the top of the dress comes from her own wedding dress. The overall dress is made from polyester-satin fabric, with an underskirt made with tulle to imitate the volume of Zendaya's dress.

To re-create the print design, she handcrafted a stencil of a parrot, which she then used to spray paint the pattern. Once she had the basic shape, she hand-painted the rest of the parrots, flowers, and vines in acrylic. To see the process unfold in real time, watch a process video she made.

 

When Poured Painting Meets Its Opportunity

Patrice Pugh (@PattieLePugh), a celebrity makeup artist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, re-creates Solange's 2015 dress designed by Giles.

Patrice Pugh, a celebrity makeup artist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has been spending a lot of time working on different art projects. The week before the challenge, she'd been making pour paintings—a process of creating marbled or rippled patterns by layering paint into a cup and then re-pouring it onto paper. Pugh told us that Solanges's 2015 dress resembled her paintings so much that she couldn't resist trying to re-create it.

To make the final look, Pugh used two large pieces of photography paper as a sturdy base for her poured paintings. After the paint dried, she sculpted the dress by folding the paper into a pleated fan shape. Next she shaped both halves into a circle and glued the edges together. Lastly, she strung hemp through the dress to tie it around her.

 

When the Mold Fits Just Right

Haeyoung (@acnhcelebrity), a UI/UX designer based in Tokyo, re-creates Zendaya's Cinderella dress by Tommy Hilfiger from the 2019 Met Gala.

The creative journey of Tokyo-based UI/UX designer, Haeyoung, turned out to be its very own Cinderella story. An admirer of Zendaya's Cinderella dress from Met Gala 2019, she re-created the look in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, by translating the design using the available dress frames, or in-game silhouettes. The most challenging part was selecting colors from a limited palette that "expressed the mysterious and beautiful one from Zendaya's," Haeyoung said. She wished she could have made two versions, "before and after the magical moment of color change."

Perhaps it's possible with two dresses and a magic wand?

Learn how to convert Met Artworks into Animal Crossing custom designs.

 

The Beauties of a Kitchen Essential

Matthew Reisman (@matthewreisman), a fashion designer, and Reginald Reisman (@reggiereisma), a creative consultant, both from Queens, New York, re-create Ella Balinska's 2019 gown designed by Tory Burch.

For this challenge, Matthew Reisman and Reginald Reisman from Queens, New York wanted to take advantage of life under quarantine to re-create the volume and metallic-like fabric of Ella Balinska's 2019 gown—out of tinfoil and clear duct tape! But how? They explain, "We first constructed a fitted inner skirt as a base, and then layered pleated tiers of tin foil." Check out Matthew Reisman's Instagram profile for even more looks they created.

 

Where Fashion Meets Art

Zoe (@zoemeifleur), a high school student from Oak Park, Illinois, re-creates Ariana Grande's 2018 Sistine Chapel look by Vera Wang.

Interested in both fine arts and fashion design, Zoe, a high school student from Oak Park, Illinois, saw Ariana Grande's Sistine Chapel look by Vera Wang as an opportunity to hand-paint a dress and combine 2D art with fashion, while keeping to her aesthetic: "gauzy, feminine, and dreamy-colored." In addition to her elaborate work on the dress form (such as repurposing a seventies wedding dress pattern and using zip ties to create the supporting underwire structure of the inner bodice), Zoe put care in presenting a total look through her modeling and photography.

Since her reference look made its appearance at 2018's Heavenly Bodies Gala, she knew she wanted a church backdrop. She also based her poses on figures in Renaissance paintings in reference to the original dress' textile: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. However, for her own paintings, she was inspired by Warhol's cherub illustrations and Matisse's figure illustrations. "I wanted to create something more illustrative and contemporary as opposed to Michelangelo's classic Renaissance style," she said. "I thought this would be a unique (instead of exact) take on the dress." 

 

Playing Dress-up . . . in Your Linen Closet

Jennifer Wright (@misswrightbrain), a director of student relations at the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana, from Nashville, Arkansas, re-creates Gigi Hadid in Tommy Hilfiger (2017).

When Jennifer Wright, director of student relations from Nashville, Arkansas, saw the #MetGalaChallenge on Instagram, she wanted to re-create as many looks as possible. She traces her enthusiasm for fashion to her friend Renee, who owns a prom and pageant dress store. "I've always loved volunteering at her fashion shows and working with her to style evening gowns," Wright said.

Challenging herself to use pieces around the house, Wright drew most of her materials from the linen closet. For Gigi Hadid's Tommy Hilfiger half-blazer-half-dress ensemble, she used a sleeping bag, blazer from Goodwill, and two types of hosiery. A belt brings the look together. Swipe to see additional looks including Elizabeth Debicki in Salvatore Ferragamo (2019), and Blake Lively in Chanel (2011).

 

On Channeling a Role Model, and Becoming One

Noemie Jouas (@noedresses), a business management student at St. Andrews, Scotland, but quarantined back home in Tokyo, re-creates Lana Condor's 2019 dress designed by Giambattista Valli.

For this challenge, Noemie Jouas, a business management student at St. Andrews, Scotland, quarantined back home in Tokyo, wanted to re-create a look that reflected her mixed identity (she's French and Japanese) and dedication to sustainability. She chose Lana Condor's look because of the actress's work and portrayal of a mixed-race character in the movie To All The Boys I've Loved Before.

The sheets of plastic for her dress were all sourced from her neighborhood's communal trash. Jouas describes a delicate construction process. Given the fragility of the plastic, she couldn't use a sewing machine. Instead, she hand-pleated and individually attached each sheet to a simple pink dress base layer, also of her creation. Reflecting on her process, she wrote, "I found myself letting the plastic do whatever it wanted whilst also trying to stay true to Giambattista Valli's original design."

 

Honoring a Legend

Raissa Bretaña (@raissabretana), a fashion historian from New York City, re-creates Diana Vreeland's Met Gala look designed by Yves Saint Laurent for his monographic show in 1980.

Raissa Bretaña, a fashion historian from New York City, chose to re-create a past look from Diana Vreeland, a former Vogue editor-in-chief and special consultant to The Costume Institute. Bretaña wanted to honor both her time as a curatorial intern at The Met as well as the Museum's 150th anniversary. She said, "I used to take such delight in being 'greeted' by the life-size statue of D.V. (that stands in The Costume Institute Library) on my way into the office every morning. It just wouldn't be right to celebrate the event's history without her!"

Diana Veerland donated her gala ensemble to The Met, which Bretaña found in the Museum's Open Access collection. "I used only things found in my apartment—namely, grocery-store paper bags and aluminum foil, which I spray-painted gold and stapled together," she said. "The distinctive jewelry was also made from paper, painted with nail polish and combined with other pieces from my own jewelry box. As for styling, I emulated D.V.'s cropped hairstyle that curled around the ears, her bright red lipstick, and the notable excess of rouge she often wore."

 

Of the Times

@crossingtherunway, founded by Richmond Young, an industrial designer/engineer, and Shel Orock, a web developer, both from Brooklyn, New York, pays homage to The Met Gala's theme this year, "About Time," with a Spring/Summer 2007 design ("Sarabande") by Alexander McQueen.

Brooklynites, Richmond Young and Shel Orock's chosen inspiration may not be a former Met Gala look, but as self-proclaimed devotees of Alexander McQueen, it's what they would have wanted to showcase on the red carpet for this year's theme, "About Time." According to Richmond and Shel, "'Sarabande' is such a perfect embodiment of time and duration—a pastiche of so many historical references, like Edwardian tailoring, a live chamber orchestra playing Sarabande by Handel, 'Paint it Black' by the Rolling Stones, and of course, McQueen finishes."

Instead of recreating the look in real life, they designed the ensemble in the video game Animal Crossing. Using a pixel-grid pattern, they captured essential and expressive details like the ruffle, gather detail of the coat skirt, and floral appliqué wrapping around the upper bodice into the sleeve.

Their attention to detail also extends to the environment. The duo screen-captured their in-game character within "an abandoned wood-paneled set accompanied with a chamber ensemble." They chose a piano, velvet piano stool, and candelabra to evoke the mood of McQueen's runway presentation. The fallen cherry blossom petals were the final cherry on top—iconic to McQueen's original show.

Learn how to convert Met Artworks into Animal Crossing custom designs.

 

An Architect's Perspective

Kassandra Hazlehurst (@hazkas), an architectural designer from Mt. Vernon, New York, re-creates another Solange look from 2018, designed by Iris Van Herpen. Photo by @mo__photos.

Kassandra Hazlehurst, an architectural designer from Mt. Vernon, New York, said deciding on her look was the easy part. And it just so happens that her 2018 look was also by Hazlehurst's favorite designer, Iris Van Herpen. Hazlehurst described a real challenge: "Herpen's pieces are usually created with the help of 3D and laser printers, and all I had was garbage bags, pipe insulation, packaging material, duct tape and my bare hands."

Hazlehurst approached the project like a true architect. "I spent an hour scouring the internet, searching for more views of the dress, trying to visually understand it," she said. "It's made up of complex and precise contours, layered perfectly on top of one another, creating this fluid, organic-seeming, yet alien-like structure."

Hazlehurst sculpted the bottom half of her dress on a mannequin, and planned to simply wrap duct tape around her torso for the shoot to create the fitted bodice. For the final photographs, she recruited her best friend and long-time collaborator, Monica Slattery. "I knew I needed her eye to bring this vision to life. Utilizing our suburban surroundings as a backdrop, I studied Solange's red carpet movements and poses, and did my best to bring her essence to the look."

 



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