In an average year, New York City becomes a hot pot of glamour, fashion, and couture on the first Monday of May as a number of famous celebrities and notable figures attend the Met Gala. This fundraising event for the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Arts has simultaneously become the annual Oscars and Olympics of the fashion realm, but much like the tragic occurrences during the global health crisis, this year poses a different approach to this long-held tradition.
With crowds of Black Lives Matter protesters outside the historical event, and a vaccine mandate inside, the much-delayed New York Met Gala finally went ahead on a Monday evening in September. The 2020 event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2021 Gala was rescheduled for the same reason.
Despite these hurdles and unique circumstances, the annual fundraising event, also known as “the party of the year,” pushed through as it seeks to be framed as part of New York’s re-emergence, along with the re-opening of theaters, Broadway shows, and even the US Open. While some regular attendees, such as European designers and Hollywood stars, were unable to come due to a number of reasons, perhaps because of health concerns, the Met Gala never failed to turn a lot of heads this year.
This year’s show, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, presented a more local, younger, and sportier guest list, with hosts that were dubbed as the Gen Z dream team: the 23-year-old inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman, the 25-year-old star of “Dune,” Timothee Chalamet, the 23-year-old tennis champion and mental health activist, Naomi Osaka, and the 19-year-old musician and animal rights activist, Billie Eilish. Showcasing “American Independence” as 2021’s theme, the Met Gala has become more overtly political than usual.
Usually, politics, when mashed with fashion, is a subtle business. However, congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chose to present her message in bold letters, wearing a suffragette white with “Tax the Rich” written in bold, red typeface at the back.
The dress was designed by a creative director, Aurora James of Brother Vellis, who is a staunch supporter of, in her words, “economic justice.”
While Ocasio-Cortez guaranteed to turn some heads through her eye-catching dress, she was not the only attendee in a slogan gown. Model and actor Cara Delevingne sported a “Peg the Patriarchy” ensemble in white and red while congresswoman Carolyn Maloney wore a gown filled with suffragette shades with “Equal rights for women” written in bold letters across two long trains falling from her shoulders.
Aside from the Gala’s overtly political shades, some celebrities demonstrated a more artistic approach to the dress code. After taking home Video of the Year at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, American rapper Lil Nas X debuted at the Met Gala, pulling a Gaga on the show’s historic stairs.
Dressed in all gold by Versace, the rapper arrived draped in a regal velvet cape, then threw this off to reveal a reflective suit of armor beneath. Ending his elaborate show on the stairs, he unclasped the armor to show off his final look: a crystal-studded catsuit.
While the Met Gala this year tried its best to match every other year, the circumstances surrounding this incredibly historical event are far from the usual. Aside from it being held in September, the number of attendees allowed in the event was also trimmed down due to the pandemic protocols. Although the price of each ticket was pegged at $35,000 a seat to make up for it, the Costume Institute is going to hold another event in May next year to celebrate part two of its American exhibition.