Arts

A drawing of AOC
No matter what she did at the Met Gala, AOC would have been criticized. Image: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” Oscar de la Renta and tickets on which celebrities overspent

This year’s Met Gala was an entertaining parade of conflicting egos. It begs the question: do we still need the Met Gala? I’d argue that we do. Often called “fashion’s biggest night out,” the Met Gala will remain relevant as long as people keep buying Vogue Magazine and attending New York Fashion Week. This is not to say that it isn’t losing relevance — it has, ever since Anna Wintour and her stiff blonde bob sunk her overbearing claws into the event in 1999.

The MET Gala is typically held on the first Monday of May each year. COVID-19 prevented the 2020 iteration from happening, and the 2021 gala was postponed to September. This year’s theme was, long-windedly, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which takes its name and aesthetic expectations from an exhibit in the Anna Wintour Costume Centre, which opened on Sept. 18, 2021 and will run until Sept. 5, 2022. There will be a second Met Gala for this year, held next May, accompanying the opening of a second exhibit: “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.”  

The Met Gala began in 1948 as a $50 per head event that raised funding for the newly-opened Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1973 saw the introduction of themed nights and the beginning of its tradition as a star-studded, invite-only event. Prices slowly went up to $30,000 a head. This year, the Met Gala’s guest list was reduced to a third of its normal size due to capacity limits and social distancing. Despite the reduced guest list, it still had four co-hosts: actor Timothée Chalamet, singer Billie Eilish, poet Amanda Gorman, and tennis player Naomi Osaka. 

Because of the pared-down list, one would expect that invites would only be sent out to the crème-de-la-crème of American celebrity. But you’d be wrong. On the list were a plethora of YouTubers, TikTokers, and Instagram influencers including Nikkie de Jager (NikkieTutorials), Jackie Aina, Dixie D’Amelio, Addison Rae, Emma Chamberlain, Eugene Lee Yang, and Madison Beer. The only redeemable one on this list is Emma Chamberlain, as she’s become one of the faces of Louis Vuitton, and she looked amazing. Most of the other influencers in attendance looked like they had been dressed in SHEIN ready-to-wear fast fashion.

I’m not going to address the AOC controversy because the Met Gala is, at its core, a celebration of fashion, and I am treating it as just that. (And no, she didn’t pay $30,000 to attend.) Elected officials from New York City are always invited. They receive free tickets and they’ve been attending for years because the Met is a staple of New York City’s arts and culture scene. Also in attendance this year were Bill De Blasio (for the first time, as he’s eschewed it in the past) and Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.

The real issue with AOC in attendance is people placing her on a pedestal. No matter what she did, she would have been criticized. In an alternate universe she wore the same gown without “TAX THE RICH” written on the back and she would be criticized for attending anyway. Fundamentally, idolizing and making a celebrity out of a politician is gauche, and part of the reason why American democracy feels like a reality TV show.

The most poignant political statement of the night didn’t use words. It was the maskless celebs being waited upon by masked servants, like Billie Eilish and the ginormous train of her Oscar de la Renta gown. New York City’s mask “mandate” just isn’t for everyone. At least there was a mandatory vaccine policy. Nicki Minaj was notably not in attendance due to her reluctance to get vaccinated, punctuated by her anti-vax tweets (oddly enough, based on the anecdotal experience of her cousins’ friend’s testicles). 

There is literally no reason why the night’s designers were so far off the mark. It’s true that the Met Gala was held before the exhibit opened. But it took me five minutes of research (if research can be called reading a single Vogue article that outlined the new exhibit) to discern the theme. The fun of the Met Gala is adhering to the theme. Constraints can be freeing. They allow designers and the celebrities who model their art to inject their personal interpretation and flair. Here are some of my favourite looks from the Met Gala who I think interpreted the theme well.

Riverdale star Lili Reinhart wore a girlish structured gown from Christian Siriano emblazoned with flowers from all 50 states. Her look was very similar to an Oscar de la Renta piece in the upcoming exhibit. Needless to say, she understood the assignment.

Kehlani stunned in a simple Aliette look and gets extra points for wearing a mask.

Oh my goodness. Lupita Nyong’o in Versace was the theme personified and then some. Versace as a fashion house is on the decline, but this campy look was perfect for their Americanization. Stunning, show-stopping, never-been-done-before.

Debbie Harry wearing both American flag stripes and denim was such a bold choice and it worked. The ensemble was designed by Zac Posen, who accompanied her to the gala. If I were a person who looked too deeply into things, I’d say that the exposed frame of her skirt was representative of America’s deep structural inequalities being exposed during the pandemic. 

Dan Levy has gotten a lot of flak for this statement look from Spanish house of Fashion Loewe. When compared to one of the looks from the Lexicon of Fashion Exhibit, we can better see the artistic inspiration.

Anok Yai was elegance personified in a 1930s-eque silhouette gown. This Oscar de la Renta number was a welcome respite from the dozens of princess tulle-skirt ball gowns. When I say this was my favourite look of the evening I mean it by a very, very wide margin. The jewelry, the boa, and the gem-encrusted dress all came together in harmony. She was the moment.

The one and only Gerber baby, Kaia Gerber, looked better than ever in a black Oscar de le Renta cutout gown. She’s on thin ice thematically, but her look was based on a 1981 Karen Jagger Dior gown so she barely slips by. 

Some bonus looks: those who didn’t quite fit the theme but still looked amazing.

Yara Shahidi. She took my breath away. The glitz, the glamour… she was everything and more.

Both Grimes and Hunter Schafer looked out-of-this-world in Iris Van Herpen and Prada respectively.

Lily-Rose Depp and crop tops are pretty much synonymous. I loved this for her. 

I’m not going to mention any of the worst-dressed people because I’m not a negative person, although I am looking forward to the Met Gala in May so I can see more people absolutely butcher the very simple theme.