As someone who, in a pre-COVID world, waited and watched for the Met Gala’s theme reveal and then how designers executed it at the event, I was no-less excited when they announced that the big night would go forward this year. Like many fashion and celebrity-enthusiasts, I sat down with my flatmate this past Monday night to watch Vogue’s live stream of this year’s Met Gala, ready to judge how everyone interpreted this year’s theme: “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” While as a North American myself, I feel like I, personally, have a deeper insight to what that theme encompasses, still what follows is my amateur and very biased opinions on different celebrities’ looks.
In general, I expected to see a lot of red, white, and blue, stars, stripes, and Statues of Liberty. The steps, however, were not as awash in these quintessential American hallmarks as one would hope. I was pleased with the amount of Old Hollywood glamour homages I spotted. Particularly stunning were Gemma Chan’s Prabal Gurung Anna May Wong-inspired dress, Yara Shahidi’s Dior Josephine Baker look, and—my personal favourite, as well as the winner of my flat’s popular vote—Billie Eilish’s Oscar de la Renta Marilyn Monroe tulle homage.
Celebrity co-chair Amanda Gorman’s Vera Wang reimagined Statue of Liberty look really hit the nail on the head in terms of theme in my opinion. A blue starry dress with a laurel crown and a book-shaped clutch with the classic inscription “give us your tired” from the poem at the statue’s base topped the consummate Americanness of it all off.
One notable on-theme look was Indigenous model, Quannah Chasinghorse’s Peter Dundas for Revolve gown, which she wore with authentic Navajo turquoise jewelry. In terms of representing America in its totality, this beautiful design and the model for it were sadly one of the only ones who recognized this route of interpretation.
Others decided to make political statements with their outfit choices. Politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Brother Vellies gown sported the words “tax the rich“ in large red lettering across the back, while Cara Delevingne’s Dior top encouraged people to “peg the patriarchy.”
Another trend that was popular this year was a look I am dubbing ‘the diamond-studded naked dress.’ Notably rocked by Kendall Jenner and Zoë Kravitz, this clear nod to American diamond culture seems to bring the gemstones age-old ranking as a girl’s best friend to the 21st century. Jenner’s Givenchy look was a nod to Audrey Hepburn’s My Fair Lady gown of the same designer. Kravitz’s Yves Saint Laurent number, meanwhile, suggested chainmail and armour. Both takes on the exposed-underwear look were gorgeous, of course, and, surprisingly offer vastly different tones despite the lack of actual fabric. It is interesting to see how both powerhouse designers played with the same materials.
This dedication to the theme was missing, however, in many of the other big names’ looks. I lay it down as a general rule that if I have to stretch my imagination to make an outfit fit the theme, then the design is not as good as it could be. Kim Kardashian’s ensemble, for example, an allblack morph suit-esque gown, just left me with many many questions. I also saw too many crowns and headdresses that looked to have been recycled from 2018’s Heavenly Bodies Met Gala, and a few hi-tech looks that could have walked right out of 2016’s Manus x Machina theme. Hunter Schafer’s silver Prada get-up was too out-of-this-world to be applicable to a theme that requires such a n awareness of the material world.
Lorde’s two-piece, sustainable, Bode look, on the other hand, while seemingly too Catholic diadem inspired to apply to the All-American theme, actually upon further inspection ingeniously nodded to the Arts and Crafts movement. With all sorts of coins and other nifty relics dating as far back as the 1890s. This design admittedly breaks my previous ruling in this very article on having to think too hard to understand the ensemble’s connection to the theme, but I make a special exception for Lorde’s innovative, art-historical look.
In terms of the men’s looks this year, I was again left non surplussed. While perhaps Dan Levy’s Loewe suit and Lil Nas X’s three-part Versace ensemble were the stars of the weird and the wonderful, it was Marvel’s Simu Liu and Timothee Chalamet’s white suit s that stole the show for me. I’m a sucker for a 1950s crooner-inspired look, and those little forehead Superman curls really did it for me. I know I can’t be the only one.
All in all, it was a slightly anti-climactic return to the Met Gala for me and my flat, or perhaps my expectations were too high after a year of masked faces and athleisure looks. This is not to say that I did not love all the designs I saw that maybe weren’t as obviously on-theme as one would hope—don’t get me wrong. I loved all the Chanel looks, even if they just struck me as Chanel pieces instead of specially made for this year’s theme. One area the Met Gala never disappoints in, however, is crazy celebrity looks and a peek into the glitz and glamour world of the one percent. As long as they deliver on that front, then who am I to wcomplain?