The Met Gala is back. In all its glory? That question is still unanswered. Known as the ‘Oscars of the Fashion World,’ this highly anticipated event is held at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. In 2021, fashion’s biggest night out is held four months later than its usual first Monday in May, but I think we can all agree that it’s better late than never. The Met Gala is 73 years running and celebrities pay a hefty price to don their favourite designers and enjoy what must be one hell of a menu at the Costume Institute fundraiser.
Before we tuck into the night’s diverse looks, let’s talk about the theme.
This year, the Gala has a theme of “American Independence” or “In America: A lexicon of Fashion.” This theme honours the home of the event, spotlighting everything American fashion. According to Met Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton, he refers to a spotlight on American designers in the age of pandemic and social justice movements.
“I really do believe that American fashion is undergoing a renaissance. I think young designers, in particular, are at the vanguard of discussions about diversity and inclusion, as well as sustainability and transparency, much more than their European counterparts,” he tells Vogue.
The second part of this year’s event comes “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” an exhibition to mark the Costume Institutes’ 75th anniversary, which will be followed by a second Met Gala in May of next year.
Let’s see how our celebrities took this year’s tribute to the legacy of American style, shall we?
Firstly, the hosts. Timothée Chalamet in a striking Haider Ackerman ensemble, taking inspiration from the clash between uptown and downtown cultures. The young actor made his arrival with a slouchy statement of converse high tops, after having walked ten blocks from the Frick.
You couldn’t have missed the elegant Billie Eilish, channelling Marilyn Monroe in a peach coloured gown from Oscar de la Renta, of which she wore to finalise a deal with de la Renta that he makes his brand fur-free.
Other co-chairs included Naomi Osaka, who wore a bold ensemble that began as a digital watercolour art piece from her sister Mari and became a celebration of her heritage with Louis Vuitton and Amanda Gorman, renowned poet, was in a vibrant blue Vera Wang dress alongside a book-shaped clutch. The honorary chairs include Tom Ford, Adam Mosseri and Vogue Editor Anna Wintour.
While everyone looked absolutely stunning, it was great to see those who understood the assignment. Early into the night, we see influencer Emma Chamberlain in a stunning Louis Vuitton number she calls “her dream dress.” Covered in nearly 2,000 Swarovski crystals, 9,000 rhinestones and 21,000 micro beads, this dress took 290 hours to hand embroider. Kendall Jenner wears a modern take on Audrey Hepburn’s Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady in custom Givenchy. Zoe Kravitz glittered up the stairs in a jewelled slip from Saint Laurent. Lil Nas X continued to stun the crowd in three different looks on the night. His three golden Versace pieces began with a heavenly golden cape, to a golden knight suit and ended on a beautifully detailed bodysuit with platform boots. Surely a showstopper.
Some stars took it a step forward. For example, Lili Reinhart’s semi-sheer pink gown designed by Project Runway Alum Christian Siriano is dotted with the flowers of all 50 states. Musician Grimes controversially arrived with a sword in hand, wearing an ensemble which took inspiration from the American Novel, Dune, with her stylist, Turner. The second iteration of Grand Herbet’s novel comes out next month, starring Timothée Chalamet. Frank Ocean made a style move which would probably have been cheugy if tried by anyone else. In black suede Prada, Ocean ascended the red carpet with a bright green, robotic baby in his arms. I think I’ll leave it there.
Fashion is nothing, if not political and these stars used the Met Gala to make a statement. Dan Levy, who told the media he was nervous about his Met Gala debut, was a powerful symbol of the love and resilience of the LGBTQI+ community. Drawing from artwork by AIDS Activist David Wojnarowicz, Dan worked with Leowe’s Jonathan Anderson to leave onlookers speechless. Cara Delevingne, a Met Gala pro, served a fierce Dior look which featured a defensive vest reading, “Peg the Patriarchy” in red, a message for female empowerment. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore a Brother Vellies gown, almost bridal, which spelled “Tax the Rich” on the rear of the dress.
Some celebrities made a statement in who they wore on their arm. Couple Hailey and Justin Bieber channelled timeless American beauty, which some argue was unimaginative or simplistic. Justin donned a black suit from La mansion Drew, while Hailey wore a floor length, plunge-neck black gown. J Lo and Affleck share a passionate *masked* kiss for the paps.
We can’t forget the already stirring outfit choice of Kim and her stylist, Demna Gvasalia. Kim’s head-to-toe stark black Balenciaga suit including a full face mask ruffled some feathers, some stating it showed a lack of effort. Many saw this as a plug for Kanye’s new album, Donda, while one TikToker, Lexie Jay explains that Kim is insinuating that her body alone has such a large impact on American Fashion, as it is the “only element to the look.”
I can’t go without some honourable mentions. Emily Blunt in an angelic Miu Miu frock, Lorde in a powerful white two piece from BODE, Euphoria’s Barbie Ferreira channelling Hollywood glamour in a delicate pearl gown from Jonathan Simkhau, Iman, owner of Man cosmetics in that colossal gold number from Dolce and Gabbana and Harrison Reed.
This year, Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Zendaya opted out of the Met Gala. Nicki Minaj publicly stated that she wouldn’t go to the event due to the fact that one must be vaccinated to attend.
We thought we wouldn’t be seeing Rhianna, but the star and her newly confirmed boy A$AP Rocky were fashionably late. Rhianna wore a dramatic black Balenciaga outfit with a large coat and hat that was giving off subtle sleeping bag vibes. Rocky, in a colourful quilted look from ERL, channelled the lockdown mood.
The 2021 Met Gala is America’s leap back into culture and trends. Some conducted a post-pandemic style that is more self aware, while others aimed to pick up right where we left off. In my opinion, this is a welcome distraction that we all needed here in Australia and I can’t wait to hear the gossip from Rhianna’s giant afterparty taking place after the event.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!