On Monday night, Christopher John Rogers honored the history of dress design in collaboration with Sex and The City star Sarah Jessica Parker, who graced the Met Gala red carpet wearing a voluminous striped gown. The dress was inspired by Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, the personal dressmaker for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and the first Black seamstress of the White House.
Parker’s gown was a derivative of a black and white gingham-plaid gown and cape designed by Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley in 1860. Rogers exaggerated the silhouette with a fitted bodice with Swarovski-crystal buttons and a voluminous ball gown skirt with a train, made of silk faille, moire, and taffeta. The gown was accessorized with a custom veil embellished with black stones and a fuschia flower arrangement. The design was a perfect marriage of the Met Gala’s gilded glamour theme, Roger’s knack for over-the-top gowns and proportions, Parker’s iconic style, and Keckley’s historic designs.
Keckley, who was born into slavery, purchased her and her son’s freedom in 1855 and later moved to D.C. to work as a seamstress, where she met First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Shortly after Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration Mary Todd Lincoln hired Keckley to be her personal modiste, resulting in the two having a close working and platonic relationship. In 1868, Keckley published her memoir Behind the Scenes: Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House, a detailed account of her life journey, including her time working with the FLOTUS.
Christopher John Rogers took the fashion industry by storm with his mastery of bold colors, eccentric prints, and dramatic eveningwear that is still pragmatic in approach. Each design exquisitely captures the essence of self-expression, optimism, and youthfulness through bright pink, orange, and green juxtaposed polka dots, florals, and marker swatches.
In 2019, Roger’s won the Council of Fashion Designers of America/ Vogue Fashion Fund, the most coveted prize for emerging designers. He went on to win the CFDA American Womenswear Designer of the Year Award in 2020 for his spirited designs. His designs have been worn by everyone from Beyonce and Lizzo to Tracee Ellis Ross, Michelle Obama, and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Roger’s imprinting of his design codes on Keckley’s historic gown, is not only a reflection of the evolution of dress design but a call to the history of unsung Black designers and fashion that is embedded at the core of American fashion.