The Poignant Backstory Behind Lily Gladstone’s 2024 Met Gala Dress

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Lily Gladstone continues to break barriers—whether she’s becoming the first Native American woman to be nominated for an Oscar (thanks to her compelling performance in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon), or spotlighting Indigenous fashion on the red carpet. At tonight’s 2024 Met Gala, Gladstone continued her thoughtful approach to dressing—this time, by choosing an intentional look created by Gabriela Hearst and the Kiowa jeweler Keri Ataumbi. “I am so in love with the Met, and getting to become a part of its history is truly moving,” Gladstone tells Vogue.

The making-of process for Gladstone’s striking outfit began a few months back. Her black, corseted dress and sweeping organza cape were both fully embroidered with recycled silver stars; Ataumbi, a renowned jeweler based out of Santa Fe, hand-crafted each individual star, then arranged them into the shape of nine different constellations onto the garment. “I love the combination of the sleeping beauty and garden of time [themes], articulating itself through a blanket of stars,” says Gladstone. “Since time immemorial, Kiowa, Blackfeet, and other Plains people have always said we come from the stars, and it is where we return to join our ancestors. It is a tapestry of time, under the veil of night.”

The design concept evolved out of early conversations between Hearst and Ataumbi. Growing up, Ataumbi had strong ties to the Great Plains and its starry landscapes, and the jeweler was intrigued by the idea of applying such imagery onto Hearst’s sleek design. “Our ancestors are in the constellations—we’re star people,” says Ataumbi. Mapping out nine different constellations onto a garment was no easy feat. “The idea was to have the constellations as seen from the Great Plains,” says Hearst. To do so, they sourced an image of the Great Plains sky during the summer solstice in June last year; The atelier then blew up the image, printed it out, and laid it out over a form, which Ataumbi used to map out and embroider the constellations. (The Pleiades, for example, are found at the cape neckline, as a custom closure.) “When people look at the stars, they often think about constellations from the western perspective,” says Ataumbi. “I wanted [to represent] how the original peoples look at the stars.”

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Photo: Razelle Benally

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Photo: Razelle Benally

Finding the right silhouette for the garment—to allow for the constellations to truly shine—was easy, says Hearst. The designers landed on a clean, minimal dress and cape that made the stars the focal point. “The silhouette of the dress is exactly what I had in mind [from the beginning,]” says Hearst. For Ataumbi, the idea of a cape resonated in a special way. “In our [Kiowa] warrior society, the men wear capes,” says Ataumbi. “We wanted to play with an iteration of a traditional Native design, but make it contemporary.” The jeweler adds that working with Hearst on incorporating such mindful touches was special. “[The process] actually felt like the way Native women do things,” says Ataumbi. “Everything we do is a collaboration; It’s not just one person. Everyone brings something to the table—It’s about women’s voices coming together to create something whole.”

While the Met Gala is often an exercise in who can wear the boldest look, it was important to Hearst and Ataumbi to create a final design that was impactful yet subtle. “The Met Gala is a competition of attention-grabbing—everybody’s dresses are on steroids,” says Hearst. “But Lily commands this grace and attention when she walks into the room. I wanted her to feel regal” says Hearst. Ataumbi echoes the sentiment—and wanted to ensure the final design reflected this as well. “I’m so proud of Lily—she is breaking so many barriers,” says Ataumbi. “I didn’t want to bring a Native costume to the Met Gala, because we’ve been fighting against that for so long. I wanted to put a protection energy and prayer onto her; The couture work that we [as Indigenous people] grew up with is imbued with prayers.”

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Photo: Razelle Benally

For Gladstone, having the spirit of Indigenous design present at the Met Gala meant everything. “Indigenous people have always belonged in the world of luxury fashion; beauty is embedded in our cultures,” she says. “We are truly masters of meaningful design and adornment, which Gabriela has long recognized, so it was honestly always in the plan. Simply put: It’s time.”

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