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What does Beyoncé’s Met Gala dress mean?


Tuesday saw the worlds media sharing lots of photos of various celebs going into the Met Gala. The array of over the top fashion statements made the court of Louis XVI look a bit dowdy and understated. And I presume you, like me, took a gander at Beyoncé’s dress and asked yourself ‘yes, but what does this design signify?’

Of course the answer is that the Givenchy dress served its obvious purpose of generating lots of publicity. But does it also tell us something about the codes of luxury? There are many kinds of luxury, and each kind has many attributes. It can be about scarcity, or skill, or confident understatement. But in the case of this dress it is arguably about what a lack of practicality ‘says’.

I am guessing this frock will only have one outing. It won’t be used for popping down the shops, or for keeping Beyoncé warm. It is essentially ‘useless’ in practical terms. And that says something about her status – that she can indulge in a choice that is so expensive but impractical. The lack of utility in the design is key to its appeal.

There is an implied nobility in impractical choices – just as a medieval nobleman might signify his status by wearing white, secure that he was unlikely to get the garment soiled (or at least he had staff to take care of such things). We talk about great design being both useful and beautiful. In the case of a certain kind of luxury one might swap the word ‘useful’ for ‘frivolous’ perhaps? And the end result can be something pretty show stopping.



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