By Alex Diaz
Established in 1948, the Met Gala has been a staple in the New York fashion scene. With the rise of social media as well as an increased public interest, the Met Gala has grown bigger and bigger each year. Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor in chief, has been in charge of everything concerning the Met Gala; from the theme to the guest list to even what the guests show up in, Wintour has a say in it all. Since 1973, this system has worked, with celebrities showing up in fashion statements, awing the public. Yet despite this, this year’s Met Gala was a complete flop.
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 Met Gala was canceled, but in 2021 it made a comeback with the theme being In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. Meant to celebrate American fashion throughout the ages, people expected to see iconic American references such as flappers or old Hollywood. Additionally, people thought this Met Gala was a perfect opportunity to celebrate a multitude of minority cultures and how immigration to America has influenced fashion. Instead, we got the opposite of what we hoped for.
To start, there was a complete lack of thought towards the theme, with the majority of guests not following it.
Many guests showed up in old runway pieces. Addison Rae, Vittoria Ceretti and Kate Hudson, are just a handful of guests who came in collection pieces that we’ve seen before in years past. Making references to the past can be done right but showing up in old runway outfits comes off as uninspiring and boring when the Met Gala is about extravagant and outlandish looks. Most of the looks also did not connect to the theme in any definite way and were just uninspiring.
Some celebrities lacked any connection to the theme at all. Margaret Qualley showed up in Chanel and when interviewed
about it said, “I’m wearing Chanel and […] that was my inspiration.” Lil Nas X came in an outfit which he changed as he walked down the red carpet, creating three separate looks. Despite how amazing his transformation was, he later said in an interview that it was based more on his personal breakthrough in his music career rather than anything related to America or American fashion.
Megan Fox and Kendall Jenner came in outfits that many assumed to be related to American pop culture. People thought that Fox’s outfit was a reference to Bettie Page, an American pinup model. However, she said that her outfit was inspired by Count Dracula, a European novel based in Transylvania with no connection to America. Kendall Jenner appeared to be referencing a 1920s flapper or Cher, yet was actually inspired by the European movie, My Fair Lady, specifically with the character Audry Hepburn played. While Jenner did say she wanted to reference French designer Hubert de Givenchy and his relationship with Hepburn, My Fair Lady was not costumed by him, making no clear connection to the theme.
Some may argue that pulling from European inspiration is American fashion. Seeing as though American fashion was heavily influenced predominantly by British colonizers who immigrated to the land, it often pulled fashion inspiration from Europe. This habit continued throughout the ages with America pulling its fashion from European immigrants. However, due to war restrictions during World War II, America was forced to give up certain luxuries and pull away from European designs to create its own. Yet, seeing as though many of the European references that celebrities pulled did not inspire American fashion or pop culture in any way, it did not stick to the theme.
On the other hand, some celebrities did show up in theme but fell flat. Billie Eilish at first glance stunned the audience with a huge peach ball gown and short hair, which many assumed to be a reference to Marilyn Monroe, a classic American icon. In later interviews, however, she revealed that she was actually making a reference to Holiday Barbie. The dress itself lacked the typical Holiday Barbie feel, as it didn’t have a red, gold, silver color scheme and didn’t have the typical bows or furs. Additionally, her hair should have been longer as is typical with Barbie. In her rendition, her hair was too messy and lacked the proper structure to be Monroe, and was too short to be Barbie.
Finally, some guests decided to make political and social statements with their outfits. OF course, making political statements does follow the theme of America, but many did not appreciate what the guests wore, calling it only performative. Cara Delevingne wore a top that said “Peg the Patriarchy.” The phrase itself comes from Luna Matatas, an LGBTQ+ minority, who received no credit or monetization from Delevingne.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a white dress, and on the back read, “Tax the Rich.” This message came off as tone-deaf, seeing as though most of the people at the Met Gala are wealthy and it costs around $30,000 to attend the Met in the first place. Further, the designer of the dress, Aurora James, has avoided taxes and created unhealthy working environments.
While the Met Gala was being attended by these people who wanted to present a political message, a Black Lives Matter protest was being held right in front, where police arrested protesters. If these guests who wanted to make a political statement truly cared about American issues, they wouldn’t have attended the Met Gala and instead have been at protests to fight for genuine change in America.
Despite all this, the Met Gala did have a handful of celebrities who came in unique outfits that were in line with the theme of American fashion through the ages.
Emily Blunt came to the Met Gala in a Miu Miu dress that referenced old Hollywood actress, Hedy Lamarr. Yara Shahidi also came in a dress that was yet another reference to an old Hollywood actress, Josephine Baker. Both guests had obvious references without simply copying the dresses worn by the old Hollywood actresses. They each took iconic parts of the old Hollywood inspired outfits and modernized them, the very definition of American fashion.
Some guests decided to represent their culture instead, in line with the theme of In America, seeing as though America is a melting pot of cultures around the world.
Lupita Nyong’o wore a denim dress that not only referenced 2000’s fashion but also how enslaved peoples of the Americas were forced to farm the cotton and indigo used to make denim. Additionally, her hair was a reference to artist Lorna Simpson and the Afro hair experience in America.
Indigenous model, Quannah Chasinghorse, wore Navajo jewelry to the Met in a Dundas x Revolve American Dream dress. Her whole look was influenced by her culture and perfectly embodied the theme In America, seeing as though the land on which America occupies belonged to the Indigenous before it was stolen.
Both Nyong’o and Chasinghorse wore outfits that brought to light the POC struggle faced in America, especially for African Americans and Native Americans. However, their outfits brought to light the severe lack of diversity and representation at the Met Gala.
Seeing as though the theme was meant to celebrate American fashion, it would be an obvious decision to showcase immigrant and minority fashion, seeing as though America is founded upon the hard work of minorities. Yet there was a glaring lack of representation, with many celebrities opting to wear designer clothes such as Michael Kors or Chanel.
Of course, seeing as though tickets to the Met cost around $30,000 and designer brands often buy tickets to “sponsor” guests, who then wear said designer’s clothing, it’s exceedingly difficult for up-and-coming designers and celebrities to get tickets. Still, if there ever were a time to push for diversity, this year’s theme would have been the perfect opportunity to do so.
All in all, the 2021 Met Gala left many disappointed due to the lack of cohesiveness in the theme and the lack of representation. Due to the pandemic, many people have turned to fashion as a form of escapism, creating a heightened and increased interest in fashion, setting this year up for a time of great creativity at the Met. Additionally, the vague theme could have allowed for designers and guests to get more interpretive with their looks compared to years past. This Met Gala could have been one of the best yet, but ultimately fell flat.
FEATURED IMAGE (At the top of this page): The Met Gala logo from 2021. (Photo Credits: Vogue)