(Mostly) On Theme: The 2021 Met Gala


Artwork done by Kinu Blackwelder

Kate Hasseltine and Grace Ann Lesser

The Met Gala has been a coveted night of fashion and fame since 1995. Run by Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the Met Gala highlights the work of numerous designers shown on pop culture’s icons; the gala is also a fundraiser for its host, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.
This year, Wintour decided to have a two part event, the first titled: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, and the second In America: An Anthology of Fashion. This two part event was to highlight the world of American fashion, such as, modern, futuristic, Old Hollywood, and outfits inspired by the different cultures that make up America.
This broad theme allowed for many designers to get creative, and everyone in attendance to have distinctly different looks, each inspired by a different aspect of America’s broad range of fashion history.
Not everyone in attendance followed the theme, but still highlighted the intricate designs of American fashion.
A definite highlight of the night was rapper Lil Nas X’s three-look Met Gala debut. The three outfits, all by Versace, had a medieval theme and gold color scheme. He said in a behind-the-scenes video with Vogue that this was important to him because the element gold is number 79 on the periodic table, and seven and nine are his lucky numbers. He arrived in a luxurious gold robe adorned with metallic embroidery and beading, which resembled that of a medieval king. As he approached the stairs, he shed the robe to reveal a gold suit of armor, complete with Versace’s iconic Medusa emblem at the chest. This look was reminiscent of the recently-released music video for his song “Dolla Sign Slime,” in which he wore another gold suit of armor to contribute to a medieval royal theme. He then removed the armor to debut his final look, an intricately beaded gold bodysuit. “It feels how it looks – amazing,” he said. He finished off the look with gold Versace jewelry and a pair of black platform boots that displayed the brand’s signature Greek key pattern.
Jennifer Lopez’s Ralph Lauren ensemble combined a delicate dark brown gown with a more brazen, Old West-style look to emulate an epochal time in American history. The gown was adorned with crystal embroidery and leather trim, and she accessorized with a matching mask, a pair of chunky leather and metal necklaces, a wide-brimmed Western hat, and a long faux-fur and leather cape.
One designer who created a look that both depicted modern fashion trends and the culture of the model was Peter Dundas. Dundas created a look for 19 year old model, Quannah Chasinghorse, heavily inspired by her native background and culture. He took the coveted stone of Native tribes, turquoise, and incorporated it into her elaborate necklaces, rings, bracelets, and long earrings; which were all designed to replicate traditional Indigenous jewelry. She wore a beautiful golden brown lamé gown, with cutouts about the waist and chest area to pay homage to the more modern style of fashion.
Chasinghorse’s look at the gala was definitely a standout, but others also made statements about their cultures as well.
Another person who did this was Nikkie de Jager, a beauty influencer on YouTube. Jager showed up in a mermaid style, sea green gown, which was decorated with various flowers, and she also donned an eccentric floral headpiece. Both pieces of her look were designed by Dutch couture house, Edwin Oudshoon, and the inspiration for the outfit came from the early LGBTQ+ rights and AIDS activist, Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson helped to pave the way for the LGBTQ+ people of the future, especially transgender women. One of Johnson’s most iconic photos, was one in which she was wearing a large flower crown, thereby explaining the floral elements incorporated into Jager’s look. “Marsha P. Johnson paved the way for so many of us, and I hope I made my community proud tonight,” said Jager on Instagram. As an openly transgender woman, Jager’s look was especially personal to her, and gave her a spot as one of the best looks of the night.
The Met Gala had a large amount of wonderful representation for the transgender community, including but not limited to: Nikki de Jager, Elliot Page, Kim Petras, Hunter Schafer, and Valentino Sampaio.
Schafer, model and actress on the HBO hit, Euphoria, was one of the people who opted for a futuristic look. Her look was greatly inspired by science fiction films of America, such as Alien, and the dress itself was from a 1999 Prada collection, styled by Law Roach, which was full of 90s science fiction influence. The dress itself is a two piece crop top and long skirt combination, in a shining metallic silver color, accented with large, eye-catching square cut clear gems, each designed in a different combination. The show stopping piece to her look was the spider broach, which she wore right above her nose. Schafer and her team wanted to include this to pay tribute to the phobia of many 90s kids, arachnophobia. Everything from the dress to the spider broach, and even Schafer’s contact lenses and manicure, were wonderfully intergalactic, and clearly inspired by 90s cinema and science fiction.
The broad theme of this year’s Met Gala allowed for many different interpretations, from the wacky science fiction, to looks inspired by cultures, but one of the most prominent interpretations of the theme was that of Old Hollywood.
Fellow Euphoria star, Barbie Ferreira, opted to follow this interpretation. Her gown was practically dripping in pearls, even the gentle off the shoulder straps were pearl strings. This gown, designed by Jonathon Simkhai, was a perfect example of the Old Hollywood, burlesque style, fashion. Her stunning slimly drawn brows, and long, tight curled brown hair, were staples of the 1920s beauty standard, as well. Ferreira’s perfect rendition of 1920s fashion was not only timely accurate, as pertaining to the makeup and hair beauty standard, but beautifully stunning on her.
Several others chose to emulate the Old Hollywood style, and for singer Billie Eilish, this proved a perfect opportunity to flaunt the new look that accompanied her latest album Happier Than Ever. Complete with a blonde, perfectly curled hairstyle evocative of Marilyn Monroe, she wore a floor-length peach tulle gown from Oscar de la Renta, on the condition that they stop selling fur.
Supermodel, Iman, wearing Harris Reed, put a twist on the 1950s ballroom silhouette with a feather-adorned gold hoop skirt and matching headdress layered over a strapless gold pantsuit. She described the look as “romanticism gone non-binary.”
R&B singer Frank Ocean commemorated American film and advertised his new luxury jewelry brand Homer with a simple but stylish look that highlighted statement accessories and a neon green hairstyle similar to that of his 2016 Blonde album cover. He wore a black sport suit by Prada, with whom Homer recently released a collaborative collection, paired with Homer’s “sphere legs high jewelry necklace,” a black cap meant to resemble the Dreamworks logo, and a green animatronic baby dressed in a print from Homer’s line of silk scarves. His outfit, and the animatronic accessory, were made to pay tribute to the development of American film making, especially that of CGI.
A$AP Rocky arrived bundled in a patchwork quilt, which, as it turns out, was actually made by someone’s great-grandmother. He knew he wanted to wear the giant quilt from Venice Beach-based brand ERL’s spring 2022 collection, so designer Eli Russel Linnetz recreated a custom version of the piece, using material from items that had personal significance, including his boxers and his father’s bathrobe, and incorporated them onto a quilt he found at a local thrift store. After the event, the quilt’s former owner took to social media to share a photo of the quilt on a bed at her home, saying that her grandmother had made it and donated it to a Venice thrift store so that “it could keep someone else warm.” Linnetz referred to handmade items such as the quilt as “an integral part of the American experience.”
Each look at the Met Gala represented one of these integral parts, in one way or another, that make up the Lexicon of Fashion.