Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Fashion’s big night out has returned, turning heads across the globe. If you don’t know, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City hosts an annual charity ball on the first Monday in May. The event raises money for the Met’s Costume Institute and supports its operating budget for the following year.
Each year, there is a pre-disclosed dress code that matches the MCI’s exhibit theme. Those lucky to attend arrive in decadent dresses and structured suits inspired by the year’s theme. Sadly, we were robbed of 2020’s theme - About Time: Fashion and Duration (something that aligns with TNE’s core value of sustainability), thanks to COVID-19.
Despite being fashionably late, The Met Gala made a spectacular return on Monday 13th September, with the 75th-anniversary theme part one, In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. The 2021 co-chairs are the youngest group, affectionately dubbed the Gen Z leaders of fashion, with singer Billie Eilish (19), tennis player Naomi Osaka (23), poet Amanda Gorman (23) and actor Timothée Chalamet (25).
We have finally seen what designers have poured their hearts into and the social, political and historical statements that were laid bare on the infamous red carpet. The soiree saw the hosts and elite guests display outfits that can only be described as cutting-edge, quirky and questionable. Here is a run-through of the looks that caught my eye, the good and the bad.
The Cutting Edge:
She’s an icon, she is a legend and she is the moment. The one and only Iman appeared like a golden goddess gliding across the red carpet in a show-stopping ensemble. Once she arrived, it was game over for everyone else, no matter how hard they tried to shine in their outfits as Iman was blinding. The world-class supermodel left the world awe-struck in her couture strapless wide-leg jumpsuit with a brocade corset top and trousers, layered with a tiered feather cage overskirt and matching headdress. Harris Reed collaborated with Dolce & Gabbana to create drama - from the enlarged overskirt and gold-foil silhouette. The British-American designer was inspired by America’s ballroom era to create the aesthetic the brand described as “romanticism gone nonbinary”. Iman looked like the ray of light that we have all needed after an incredibly dark two years. She truly is a star like no other.
Paying homage to the American Fashion Icon, Josephine Baker lands Yara Shahidi at the top of my list. The young actress is always particular in her style choices, similar to that of Zendaya and her Met Gala look was the perfect balance of glitz and glamour. Yara, her stylist Jason Bolden and the Dior team collaborated to create the embroidered gown. Using Yara’s love of history, the used archive photos from Josphine’s American tour where she only wore Dior to find inspiration and incorporate elements from the late stars actual wardrobe for the showstopping sleeveless gown. The Grown-ish star paired the dress with a gold tulle cloak, bejewelled gloves and a diamond headband. A true fashion icon was born, that’s for sure.
Another unique look from the night was worn by Quannah Chasinghorse, a 19-year-old Indigenous model and activist. She deserves a first-class grading for how intricately she understood the assignment. Quannah brought it home with a gold lamé dress featuring chain details and a cape flowing down her frame. The stylist, Tabitha Simmons, described the cape as giving the model wings, “It’s almost as if she has just flown down from the heavens”. Her layered turquoise and silver jewellery paid homage to her roots and connection to the Navajo tribe. Already raising the spotlight for Indigenous people in the fashion industry, Quannah made a statement with her facial tattoos, correctly known as Yidįįłtoo. Following tradition, her mother hand-poked the designs on her chin and surrounding her eyes. The model made it clear that it was important her Indigenous culture needed to be reflected in her ensemble as the world was watching how America was interpreted on the red carpet. “Reclaiming our culture is key - we need to show the world that we are still here, and that the land that everyone occupies is stolen Native land.”
Politics and fashion go hand in hand but it can go wrong, if not executed in the right manner (we’re getting there, don’t worry). One ensemble that was cruelly overlooked that is particularly powerful in its subtlety was adorned by Jeremy Pope. Male celebrity’s who have the pleasure of attending the Met often ignore the theme or wear something super basic. But Jeremy wore an all-white ensemble that was equally fashionable and committed to the theme. The actor’s outfit was a tribute to the enslaved African Americans and the cotton trade - which founded the fashion industry we know today. The off-the-shoulder corset top was paired with ankle-gathered trousers. An oversized cotton sack created a train long enough to compete with the late Princess Diana’s infamous veil. The look was a collaborative effort between Australian designer, Dion Lee, who designed the garment and James Flemons of Phlemuns who created the cotton broadcloth sack. Jeremy brought his vision to life in a visual presentation for the Gala which honoured black American ancestors and highlighted their unforgettable stories.
Why is no one talking about how incredible Barbie Fierea looked? Talk about casting your pearls before swine! This is how to perfectly execute your Met Gala debut (I’m looking at you Addison Rae and Madison Beer!). It’s memorable, luxurious, and dazzling. Barbie donned a pearl-encrusted gown fit for a sea Queen and set an example that burlesque bodice’s for curvy girls are just as desirable. The statement off-the-shoulder dress by Johnathan Simkhai was every inch of vintage glamour and a successful design that followed the Gala’s brief. The Euphoria star elevated the lock with dramatic accessories - a customised Mudd Pearl couture hairpiece and her signature diamond detailed manicure.
Lupita did what needed to be done. As soon as I knew that the theme of the 2021 Met gala was America, I was waiting for Denim to dominate the red carpet. But, it didn’t. This is incredibly odd seeing as one of the most historic red carpet outfits belongs to Spears and Timberlake with their double-denim ensemble. Whether it’s true or not, I believe Lupita’s look was a nod to this 00s classic. The denim dress screams Versace with its structured body-con fit featuring a blue crystal-embellished georgette underskirt. Her hair only added to the monumental look. Styled like a beautiful cloud, Lupita’s natural afro-hair was inspired by artist Lorna Simpson. It pays homage to the history of Black women’s hair in society.
The only thing missing from this look was a Paint Horse galloping through with Jennifer Lopez sending sultry stares to those who dare gaze upon the icon. Strutting on the red carpet, JLo took us back to the Wild Wild West, with an all American inspired outfit designed by Ralph Lauren. The rustic brown dress had a pungling neckline, a faux fur trim and sleeves, a thigh-high slit and a black cowgirl hat. Adding her stamp on the outfit, Jlo paired the dress with silver stilettos from her own DSW line. What makes the look is her extra-long, teased ponytail, imitating a horse’s tail. Perfection from head to toe!
I know I said I was not a fan of super basic looks by men on the red carpet, but this suited attire is booted with history. The world has fallen in love with Jack Harlow, and I like many, am intrigued by the Louisville rapper. Everything he does, from his music to his mannerisms, is smooth like Jack Daniels on the rocks. And his Met Gala look was mellowed, matured, and quintessentially American. Wearing Tommy Hilfiger, Jack smouldered in a velvet double-breasted tuxedo. The navy and deep red stripes are a nod to the American right of passage - college. It’s cool and represents the Tommy Hilfiger brand to the highest degree. The aforementioned history is that Jack’s grandfather and Hilfiger grew up on the same street and their families knew each other. Jack said: “Something about that connection made this whole partnership feel more organic and special”.
Now, there are always red carpet outfits that leave a bad taste in the mouths of audiences and can often lead to a social media pile-on. This year’s winners of the most questionable looks of the night go to AOC and Cara Delevingne. The women meant no malice with their ensembles but the interpretation of their political messages when paired with a bigger picture lead the ladies to be crucified.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly known as AOC, took the opportunity to raise awareness of a cause close to her heart. She wore an off-the-shoulder white gown with a tulle skirt. From the front, she looked glamorous, but the back had a glaring message in red - “tax the rich”. The Democratic congresswoman’s political statement was an eyesore in comparison to the subtle message displayed by Jeremy Pope. The design by Brother Vellies’ Aurora James, lacked taste as it was worn to an event for the elite where each ticket reportedly costs $30,000. It also makes doesn’t sense to share this message with the wealthiest people in America, if you are planning an uprising against them. It’s like walking through a working-class community saying you hate the poor? Right message, wrong place.
But even worse (yes, it does get worse) Cara Delevingne took a similar approach to the red-slogan-white-outfit, wearing a Dior bullet-proof vest reading “peg the patriarchy”. The model told Keke Palmer, Vogue’s correspondent for the evening, that the lettering was about “women’s empowerment” and “gender equality”. The statement, despite its good intentions, reads more as the action of receiving this sexual act is emasculating which is a product of the patriarchal system that she wants to peg. So, inevitably, the message continues the permeate patriarchy in society.
Cara also did a disservice to the queer artist who coined the term “peg the patriarchy” by altering its meaning and not crediting them. Luna Matatas, a sex educator, trademarked the phrase in 2015 and describes its meaning as “about subversion”. She told Jezebel: “We’re talking about dismantling the system through subverting it. It’s not about men, it’s not about anal sex. It really is about how does the system affects all of us in ways that make us subservient”. The lesson to be learned here is to give credit where it’s due, stick to the assignment and leave red political lettering off the design table.
Beauty is, in fact, in the eye of the beholder as some of the outfits that graced the red carpet were an eyesore, to say the least. The whole point of the Met Gala is that the clothes are meant to imitate art but seeing as art is subjective, it becomes awkward when no one, apart from the celebrities and their designers, has a clue what they are looking at. Already heavily disappointed from the VMA’s red carpet, it’s a shame that these stars didn’t bring their A-Game for the most fashionable night of the year. These are the quirkiest looks of the night that missed the pass mark.
The starlet who has recently come into her own and taking up space in the fashion world left me feeling queasy when she descended on the legendary Met steps. Many said she looked like Marilyn Monroe playing Cinderella in an Oscar De La Renta ball gown. Billie looked stunning as she elevated her notorious look from baggy, graphic design streetwear to an Old Hollywood inspired fitted bodice and tulle train. I wanted to love this so bad. It would’ve been perfect, had it not been baby-sick-coloured. The peach washed out Billie’s porcelain skin and paired with the icy blonde bob, she looked ghostly. It was also mentioned that her makeup made her look like Myra Hindley’s mugshot. Yikes! Once you see it, there’s no turning back.
Another co-chair that turned the Met Gala into the Meh Gala. The Dune star wore something that we have seen him in before - the basic boy next door complete with a pair of Converse. Described as “formal sweatpants”, Timothée wore a white silk tuxedo suit jacket with black lapels and white sweats by Haider Ackermann. The Chucks are as American as they come, which kind of fits the American theme, I guess. But, they are not appropriate for the Met Gala! Maybe this is what happens when you’re co-chairs are all young and still figuring out their style?
Do you know when you finish an exam, and you ask your classmates what they wrote for question 6, and your answer is the only one that’s miles different….that’s this look. There was just too much going on with this look that it became frightening to look at. The embroidered map of the world, the exaggerated shoulders, the beading, the boots, the various pastels - the embodiment of idea vomiting. But I will say, it is full of heart. The Schitt’s Creek star partnered with Jonathan Anderson to create the grand outfit to celebrate “the resilience and the love and the joy” of the LGBTQ+ community. The front and centre of the outfit is an image of two men kissing, inspired by David Wojnarowicz, the late artist and AIDs activist. Despite how it looks, by highlighting free queer expression it earns a few brownie points from me.
Now, this look takes the winning spot for the most outrageous red carpet look I have ever seen (and we all remember Miley’s outfits from her 2013 era). If Kim Petras was hoping to win the craziest look of the night, then having a 3D horse head as a bodice on a dress is one way to do that. The “Future Starts Now” singer worked with designer Hilary Taymour, the creator behind Collina Strad to make a case for the horse girl. The dress featured a pannier skirt with a print from the Sistine Tomato 2020 collection. It’s a “neigh” from me but the floral piece is fun, at least.
What was your favourite Met Gala 2021 looks?