KATE EMERY: Why do we judge people who buy a beautiful dress so much more harshly than those who buy art?

Kate Emery
The Nightly
3 Min Read
KATE EMERY: It is possible to believe these two things. One: people who think all fashion is frivolous fluff are probably a bit sexist. Two: letting fashion trends dictate what you wear is a mug’s game.
KATE EMERY: It is possible to believe these two things. One: people who think all fashion is frivolous fluff are probably a bit sexist. Two: letting fashion trends dictate what you wear is a mug’s game. Credit: Adobe Stock,

It is possible to believe these two things at the same time.

One: people who think all fashion is frivolous fluff are probably a bit sexist.

Two: letting fashion trends dictate what you wear is a mug’s game.

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The first point was driven home to me in the wake of last week’s Met Gala and a very particular kind of response to it, which went something like this: how ridiculous and also such a waste of time and money and let’s not forget about how can anyone spend that much money on a dress?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: (L-R) Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by John Shearer/WireImage)
Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman attend The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. Credit: John Shearer/WireImage

Yes, dropping $113,000 on a ticket to the Met Gala — and more again on an outfit, you can definitely not repurpose for the school run — to spend a night bumping elbows with other overdressed celebrities is indulgent, especially at a time when the cost of living is such that just doing a big shop requires a GoFundMe.

But the purpose of the event is to raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s costume initiative, which preserves historical fashion. Without the high-drama outfits, nobody cares about the Met Gala and if nobody cares about the Met Gala, nobody is paying $113,000 to watch a corseted Kim Kardashian try to suck in enough air to get through a sentence explaining why she threw a pilled grey cardigan over her John Galliano.

While I’m at it, why is it any more ridiculous or wasteful to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a dress than a painting, a piece of pottery or a gorgeous bit of architecture? I’m sure it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the fact that fashion is that rare art form usually viewed as a woman’s realm.

Fashion guru Derek Guy, known to the world of Twitter as “the menswear guy” put it like this on the app I’m still not calling X because absolutely nobody does: “One can reasonably criticize such excess — both the price of the tickets and the clothes”.

“However, one should then levy criticism on nearly all arts. (In my opinion), fashion is often unduly criticized because it has historically been coded as frivolous and feminine. ’Masculine’ interests such as architecture are considered ‘legitimate,’ while fashion is considered ‘frivolous’ and ‘dumb.’”

What he said.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Zendaya attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Zendaya attends The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating "Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. Credit: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

The second point was sheeted home to me at the weekend when I caught up with my teenage nephews and nieces.

The subject was coveted footwear, which for them is all about Crocs and Birkenstocks. The former may be accessorised with “jibbitz” — bling, essentially — and the latter must be worn with socks. Apparently, that’s dead important.

I’d heard that Crocs were now desirable kicks for kids but I hadn’t truly believed that the gardening clogs of my nightmares were considered cool until I witnessed it in the wild.

I’d say it’s only a matter of time before jibbitz-enhanced Crocs or Birkenstocks and socks show up at the Met Gala but, on balance, they’re probably both far too comfortable for anyone to allow that to happen. After all: is it really art if nobody suffers for it?

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