A Tiara Fit for Wonder Woman

By Keith Allison | May 20, 2018

The tiara worn by Lynda Carter at the 2018 Met Gala, fresh off the 3D printer at NYU LaGuardia Studio.

The tiara worn by Lynda Carter at the 2018 Met Gala, fresh off the 3D printer at NYU LaGuardia Studio.

LaGuardia Studio Makes Its Red Carpet Debut at the 2018 Met Gala

The Met Gala, an annual fundraising bash for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, provides celebrities an opportunity to make a splash. Each year, a specific theme dictates the sartorial style of the evening, and while not everyone chooses to follow the theme, those who do hold nothing back in terms of glittery extravagance. The theme for the 2018 Gala, held on Monday, May 7, was inspired by the museum’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibition. The ritual and ceremonial dress of Catholicism certainly affords ample inspiration for the sort of over-the-top costumes that have become an expectation for attendees. But, one outfit in particular turned heads—even among outfits designed to turn heads.

Attendee Lynda Carter is best known for her starring role in the 1970s television series Wonder Woman and is currently appearing as the president of the United States on The CW’s Supergirl. For the Met Gala, she wore a dress by Zac Posen, carried a purse created by Holocaust survivor Judith Leiber (who passed away just days before the Gala, at the age of 97), and topped off her outfit for the evening with a brilliant gold tiara reminiscent of the gold tiara she wore in her most famous role. However, this gold tiara was emblazoned with the Hebrew phrase לעולם אל תשכחי (“never forget”) and fastened in place with a large Star of David—quite a departure from the Catholic iconography employed in most other outfits that evening.

The tiara that garnered so much press attention was created using the 3D modeling and printing resources of NYU’s LaGuardia Studio (LGS).

Milliner Ellen Christine is an NYU alumna who has worked with the LGS team in the past. When she was approached to design the crowning piece for Carter’s Gala outfit, she immediately reached out to the Studio. The turnaround time was incredibly tight. The first consultation between Christine and the LGS team occurred in the afternoon on Tuesday, May 1. She provided a photograph of another tiara for a visual reference, a fabric cut-out that established the size and basic band shape of the tiara (which is typical for hat-making), and a laser print with the Hebrew text to appear across the front.

With these materials as reference, the Studio’s Taylor Absher created several 3D geometry mock-ups of the tiara from scratch, using Pixologic ZBrush software. Building 3D geometry without an initial scan of an object is a painstaking, exacting process. Christine selected the one that fully captured her vision for the tiara. Sections of that design were prototyped using the Studio’s Stratasys J750 Full-Color PolyJet 3D Printer to verify details. The final print was run on the Stratasys J750 3D Printer with post-cleaning done before hand-off at 1pm on Friday, May 4. After that, it was up to Christine to apply the gold leaf, which she completed that weekend in time for the shining finished product to be perched atop Lynda Carter’s head on May 7.

The tiara is one of several high-profile 3D printing projects on which the LGS team has collaborated with artists and designers. In 2016, for instance, the LGS team made 3D scans of musician Björk to serve as the basis for a series of ornate masks designed and printed by Neri Oxman at MIT’s Mediated Matter Lab.

Carter’s entire ensemble was a way to celebrate and honor the Jewish faith of her husband, Robert Altman, and her children—as well as that of Gal Gadot, the Israeli actress who most recently played Wonder Woman. The tiara attracted quite a bit of attention, even against stiff red carpet competition, such as fellow superhero Chadwick Boseman’s Versace vestments, Katy Perry’s angel, and Rihanna’s extravagant “sparkling cardinal” outfit.

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