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Arts & Culture

A Bash for the Fashion Masses

Terp Helps Create Virtual Met Gala

By Liam Farrell

Lady Gaga at the Met Gala

Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images

Lady Gaga arrives at the 2019 Met Gala in New York City. ​When COVID-19 shut down this year’s event, a global group of 11 stylish students, including Senam Attipoe ’22 (below), helped create a virtual gala.

The hottest ticket in fashion is trading in the red carpet for a Twitter hashtag today and exclusive access for a “come-one, come-all” philosophy.

The inaugural High Fashion Twitter Met Gala (#HFMetGala2020), which started at midnight and runs for 24 hours, was dreamed up last fall initially as a companion to the flashy fete run by legendary Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, wherein celebs and designers stretch their sartorial imaginations while raising money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But when COVID-19 shut it down, a global group of 11 stylish students including a Terp stepped into the gap with a more democratic attitude.

Senam Attipoe ’22 headshotStarting in a social media subculture rather than the rooms of premier fashion houses, the gala has signed up more than 1,000 participants, said Senam Attipoe ’22, who helped coordinate the event.

“It was just supposed to be a small community thing, but it really blew up,” she said. “We wanted to insert ourselves into (the Met Gala). We love the art and the extravagance of the event itself.”

Attipoe originally logged onto Twitter as a 14-year-old art enthusiast inspired by a high school field trip. Inspired by the designs of the late British designer Alexander McQueen, she was soon watching fashion shows and interacting with members of the high fashion social media subculture. When she saw the call on social media from the event’s founder, Aria Olson of the University of Michigan, for help in organizing digital sign-ups and curating submissions, she leaped at the opportunity.

The concept has struck a nerve in traditional media as well, with The New York Times, Elle, Marie Claire and many other fashion news sites writing about the event. With an invitation open to anyone with a Twitter account and a passion for fashion, the gala is organized around challenges like creating a photo collage from a randomly chosen brand, sketching and illustrating an original look or creating a unique outfit. Casting a critical eye on the environmental impact and labor ethics of consumption and “fast” fashion, the organizers also discourage the purchase of new clothes.

Building off the official Met’s theme of “About Time: Fashion and Duration,” the Twitter group chose a dress code of “Temporal Conflation,” a nod to how clothes from different time periods often are connected through linked shapes, materials and patterns. A $5 e-book compilation of submissions will be available later this month, with all proceeds going to the International Medical Corps.

Currently at home in Howard County, Attipoe is completing her own submission of a photo collage that blends together 1970s styles with the Tudor era. Over time, she’s become interested in unconventional designs, even avant-garde and camp, and has been researching how black designers have driven the explosive popularity of streetwear. And while college life is often more associated with sweatpants and free T-shirts, Attipoe often plans what she will wear the night ahead.

“Wearing a well-coordinated or well put-together outfit, accessories included, gives me a lot of confidence,” she said. “I think the only thing that is difficult about dressing up at school is having to walk across campus in heels.”

An English and public health science major, she’s watched with interest how her worlds of fashion and STEM have collided during the pandemic response, with many fashion designers pivoting to the more utilitarian job of producing masks and other protective clothing.

“I’m wondering if there is more (opportunity) for a crossover,” she said.

She also hopes the momentum from this year’s virtual gala can carry it into the future and become an annual creative outlet.

“It has been absolutely unreal,” she said.

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