Sarah Jessica Parker's Met Gala Look Pays Tribute to an Unsung Black Designer

Sarah Jessica Parker’s Met Gala Look Pays Tribute to an Unsung Black Designer

As a Met Gala veteran, Sarah Jessica Parker knows how to nail a theme. Over the years, the stylish actor has always thoughtfully considered the dress code; she told vogue just last month that she spends up to 10 months working with designers on a single ensemble. For this year’s Met Gala, which has the dress code gilded glamour, white tie, Parker worked with Christopher John Rogers on a striking, thoughtful ensemble. “What excited me the most about dressing her is how much of a fashion lover and historian she is,” Rogers says. “She’s intentional about everything that she wears.”

Parker’s Met Gala look this evening pays homage to Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, who made history as the first Black female fashion designer in the White House. A former slave who moved from Virginia to DC in 1860, Keckley went on to become the official dressmaker to first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. (She also dressed many of Washington’s socialites as well). “She was a smaller designer, and someone that people don’t really talk about,” says Rogers. “The idea was to highlight the dichotomy between the extravagant, over-the-top proportions of the time period, and the disparity that was happening in America at the time.”

To begin their collaboration, Parker and Rogers identified a particular design that Keckley had made in the 1860s (the Gilded Age began roughly around 1870). “It was this cape, and a black and white gingham-plaid gown underneath,” says Rogers. “It was the starting point for us—and since we’re known for using plaids and taffeta, it was already in the wheelhouse of what we do.” The inspiration resulted in Rogers designing a black-and-white fitted top and ballgown skirt with a train, made of silk faille, moire, and taffeta with Swarovski-crystal buttons. “We took the idea of ​​a small gingham and really blew it up,” says Rogers. “We also exaggerated the silhouette.”

During the design process, Roger and Parker focused on how to streamline the archival design to make it feel more modern and current. “We didn’t do the cape—we turned it into a top, with an emphasis on the décolletage,” says Rogers. “In lieu of a lot of embroidery, we also kept it simple, but the fabrics are super luxe.” For Rogers, collaborating with Parker also resulted in a few special details that the designer hadn’t considered. “One thing that I always love in the design process is serendipity, and letting the fittings take to a place that you didn’t necessarily intend initially,” says Rogers. “She allowed me to lean into those happy accidents. On the sleeve, there’s a sliver of skin, and we also dropped the neckline even lower than I had originally intended.”

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