The 2021 Met Gala, held on Monday Sep. 13th, marked the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum of the Arts’ annual costume exhibition. While the Costume Institute’s 75th anniversary was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, attendees were able to celebrate the 2021 event provided they presented their full vaccination records and wore masks inside the venue.
The newest exhibit titled “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” was the theme of the gala itself. Known in popular culture as “fashion’s biggest night out,” the gala is a fundraising event paired with a highly exclusive invite list created by Vogue’s Editor in Chief Anna Wintour. Guests were invited by select designers or by Wintour, and some can even purchase seats for upwards of $50,000. Designers envision and create a look that represents or relates to the theme of the night. Among the 100 celebrities, politicians, and creatives in attendance, the Americana theme outlined a different message to each of the guests.
Some chose to pay homage to the glitz and glamour of 20th century in America. Billie Eilish, a first time attendee and co-chair, worked with designer Oscar De La Renta to create a look inspired by old Hollywood actress Marilyn Monroe. Eilish also loved the Holiday edition Barbies from her childhood, inspiring her to add elements of the gowns they wore into her own. Different from her usual street-wear inspired attire, Eilish was seen in a full gown with a train, and told interviewer Keke Palmer that she finally feels very confident and comfortable in her own skin. Barbie Ferreira, famous for her role in hit television show Euphoria, played off of the old Hollywood burlesque enchantment ideal. In a pearl encrusted Jonathon Simkhai gown, Ferreira also attended her first Met Gala.
“That’s what I think of when I think glamour, just eye-catching […] I wanted full glamour and opulence,” Ferreira said when interviewed by attendee and Youtube star Emma Chamberlain.
Similarly, Yara Hashidi, actress, feminism activist, and promoter for STEM inclusivity, drew inspiration from singer Josephine Baker after being partnered with Dior. Baker, nick-named the “Creole Goddess,” is known for her fame in the 1920s, and iconic beauty that made her a symbol of Black American culture.
Other attendees created looks that held personal meaning to themselves. Rapper Saweetie combined her African American and Filipino heritage in a Christain Cowan gown. This sparkly dress featured two panels, one representing the colors of the Filipino flag, and the other with that of the Black American flag. Saweetie told interviewers that both flags are truly what makes her “an American girl.”
Tennis legend and gala co-chair Naomi Osaka wore a look, made by Louis Vuitton, that was inspired by her Japanese and Haitain heritage. Osaka’s sister also was a part of the design process, and created the fabric pattern that included images of koi fish, nodding to their shared Japanese heritage.
The Met Gala looks this year also touched on the current political climate in the United States. First time attendee, House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also popularly dubbed as AOC, wore a white gown, created by Brother Vellies, that featured radical red text on the back of the dress stating “Tax the Rich.”
“As far as this theme goes, I think Alexandria and I are a great embodiment of the language fashion needs to consider adding to the general lexicon as we work towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and empowered future,” Aurora James, founder and creative director of the Brother Vellies label, said.
Amanda Gormon, American poet and activist, also made her Met Gala debut as a co-chair in a blue look inspired by the Statue of Liberty. Gormon wanted the “spirit” of her outfit to reach out to the American people as a symbol of welcoming. Her Vera Wang gown incorporated sparkles and stars, while her book-shaped clutch referenced the book that Lady Liberty herself carries.
“The crown and laurel is where the word poet laureate comes from, which I’ve been honored to be given that title. Just trying to think of ways that my own identity can kind of intersect [with the Statue of Liberty],” Gormon said.
Experimental musician Grimes was also in attendance, and brought a sword as an accessory to her Dune-esque gown. Not only is the inspiration for her look the 1965 novel Dune by American author Frank Herbert, but her stylish sword was also made of melted down assault rifles.
“The sword is also cast from a Colt AR-15A3. It’s from these people who are getting people’s [guns] who don’t want to have their automatic rifles anymore, and are melting them down and making them perfect replicas of medieval swords,” Grimes said.
Other notable attendees included Instagram founder Kevin Systrom, Lil Nas X, Kendall Jenner, and Kamala Harris’s step-daughter Ella Emhoff. The Met Gala’s theme of “In America” was represented through the creative gowns, suits, and looks shown throughout the night. America is a melting pot of diverse cultures and this year’s Met Gala captured the cultural, historical, and political perspectives of American celebrities.