Fashion Obscura is Highsnobiety's series voyaging through the annals of under-appreciated fashion history.
In 1997, a gallery owner by the name of Valerie Monroe Shakespeare attended the Met Gala in one of the most "scandalous" red carpet ensembles in sartorial lore.
What was so outrageous about the outfit, you ask? Shakespeare, a descendant of William's brother (allegedly), had a thing for sheer, breast-baring tops — a well-documented preference that the Bard's kin censored for no one, not even Anna Wintour.
Shakespeare's eccentric wardrobe is only a sliver of her storied art career. She died in 2011, but colorful accounts of her boundary-pushing art gallery, Fulcrum, exist online.
Located on Mercer Street underneath the SoHo branch of the Guggenheim Museum, Fulcrum Gallery opened in 1993 and gained notoriety for its advertisements featuring Shakespeare in various bust-revealing dresses. Designed by her husband, artist Terry Fugate-Wilcox, the ads were published in Art Now Gallery Guide during the late '90s, and later exhibited at Robert Miller Gallery in 2000.
In 1997, Fulcrum moved to a new location on Broome Street. It wasn't until then that Shakespeare began hosting weekly dinners at the gallery, sit-down affairs that quickly became hot tickets in the art world.
Each Tuesday, Shakespeare would host 40 to 50 invitees, including friends and supporters of Actual Art (Fugate-Wilcox's artistic genre of choice), along with a few celebrities thrown in — John F. Kennedy Jr., Robert De Niro, and John DeLorean are a sampling of Shakespeare's famous guests.
While Shakespeare's Fulcrum closed in 2002 in the aftermath of 9/11, Fugate-Wilcox opened a new incarnation of the gallery in Hudson, New York last year.
The designer of Shakespeare's Met Gala outfit appears to have been lost to time (Fugate-Wilcox did not immediately respond to Highsnobiety's request for comment), but her place in red carpet history lives on.