On the night of Friday, March 24, amongst the ancient artifacts of the Penn Museum, another exhibit was on display. Leather skirts, hypnotic patterns, laced corsets, metallic makeup, and skin–tight platform boots circled the third floor of the museum. A red carpet with rose petals sprinkled about led the way into Gallery 54. The lights of the large circular room, with even higher ceilings, were dimmed. Lit candles, brightly colored orbs, and the flash of cameras served as the main sources of light. The Penn Met Gala was a night to remember.
The event was a collaborative effort between the fashion groups of Penn: Penn Fashion Collective, Penn Fashion Week, The Walk, and Alloy Media, a newly formed creative network on Penn’s campus. Months of effort went into organizing the night, with this being Penn's inaugural Met Gala. Much like the original MOMA Met Gala, the event was based on guests’ fashionable interpretation of a single theme. This year’s was retrofuturism.
Though it seems paradoxical, retrofuturism is exactly what it sounds like. The creative moment centers around the futuristic aesthetics that earlier decades envisioned. The style combines inspiration from the '60s and '70s with the future those decades might have predicted. This typically manifests as clothing silhouettes popular in earlier decades like jumpsuits, mod dresses, go–go boots, and mini skirts, with industrial type materials like vinyl, pleather, sequins, and even the occasional chainmail.
All of these characteristics and more were present at the Gala. Each guest arrived dressed for the theme. From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Prince, inspiration came from a variety of sources. Some attendees selected clothing items from their wardrobes. Others made outfits specifically for the event. A skirt made of soda tabs, earrings made from makeup pans, a corset made of CD shards, and eyeliner cut out from metallic stickers were just a few of the standout pieces. The theme allowed people to take what they already had and build an outfit. This emphasis on sustainability made the event accessible for everyone despite their background.
The gala was hosted after Penn Fashion Collective’s spring fashion show on the first floor of the museum. After the show, the audience traveled upstairs to take part in the Gala. At 8 p.m., the event opened up and people began to trickle into the third floor. The Gala was a social event, focused on interacting with the museum exhibits and other fashionable people. Music by DJ Tana Culturela (W ‘23) filled the gallery as people talked, danced, and took photos. Guests were served light refreshments of tea, coffee, and uniquely flavored cookies throughout the night. Though there was a photobooth station with a plain white background and lighting, many people opted to take advantage of the museum’s decor as their backdrop.
Towards the end of the night, Alloy Media’s own Lee Reid (W ‘25) and Sarahbelle Kim (C ‘25) performed some live music. In the closing remarks, the two thanked everyone for coming and Penn alumni for helping to make the night possible. Everyone who bought a ticket was automatically entered into a raffle with prizes that came in a variety of fashion and beauty products donated from Elia Fulmen Jewelry Company, ManiMe, Prota Fiori, and Woodley + Lowe. As people left the gallery to claim their prizes, everyone was once again thanked for coming, and though the night was over, there was a clear excitement for what is to come. “It was so great to see everyone participate in the night and to see how happy attendees were with the evening and how they loved having a space to be fashionable,” Reid said.
Though this was Penn’s first Met Gala, our school's fashion community hopes that it won't be the last. The goal of the event was not only to foster a night dedicated to the love of fashion, art, and photography, but to contribute to Penn’s legacy and continue to host galas in the following years. “You learn so many things putting something on for the first time,” Reid said, “but I’m so excited to expand [the] Met Gala and better serve the art community and the fashion community at Penn [moving forward].” For two and half hours on that Friday night, an environment that encouraged creative expression, exploration, and connection flooded the third floor of the Penn Museum.