An anticipated disappointment

Explore how the Met Gala 2021 once again failed to adhere to the theme of American Independence.

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Nina Aagard '22

While some celebrities managed to achieve the theme most ignored it completely | Graphic by

While some celebrities managed to achieve the theme most ignored it completely | Graphic by Nina Aagard ’22

The Annual Met Gala is the most anticipated exhibit of fashion where designers get to showcase their creations when the scarlet carpet is rolled out onto fifth avenue, Manhattan, New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Designed to  raise funds for the Met’s Costume Institute, the Gala has been held every year since 1948, (except 2020) inviting Hollywood stars, models, and the social  elite to celebrate and fundraise at a new exhibit at the museum. 

Beginning with the costume innovations of Irene Lewis and stage designer Aline Berstein, the Met’s Costume Institute developed into a place for theater designers around the city to flourish. With creativity growing within the city the founder of New York Fashion Week, Eleanor Lambert saw potential for more in the Costume Institute and invited guests to a midnight supper held at the Met. This nice small evening reshaped itself into the extravagant night we know and love today. 

The cancelation of the Met Gala in 2020 brought great disappointment to both viewers, guests, and designers who lost their opportunity to advertise their avant-garde designs of the season.  This year, numerous stars returned from past years and many new faces were seen walking the daunting velvet steps,  including Emma Chamberlain, Amanda Gorman and Lil Nas X. 

As for the theme, chosen by curator Andrew Bolton, this year those invited were given the theme American Independence, corresponding  to the new exhibit: In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. Some questioned this theme, thinking that celebrating American Independence seemed to disregard the state of our country and the countless injustices still seen today. Most stars remained tone-deaf to the significance of this theme given the state of the world, and few managed to achieve the assignment. 

One of the stars that brought fashion and substance to the carpet was Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She sashayed up the velvet steps in a white off the shoulder gown with the phrase “Tax the rich,” written in stark red letters across the back. This bold statement quickly sparked controversy both between stars and on social media. Some thought it was hypocritical of her to express such a message while at the same time attending such a frivolous event. Although, she claimed that now is the time to bring awareness to healthcare, childcare, and other issues America faces, thus taxing the rich. Furthermore, Dan Levy was seen sauntering in a suit that highlighted an art piece by David Wojnarowcz, artist and activist. The image is of two men kissing, depicticting a statement of queer, love. Ocasio-Cortez and Wojnarowcz were able to adhere to the theme presented, while still making meaningful statements about our country and its issues. They represented American Independence in a way that was relevant, constructive, and also fashionable. 

As for the stars on the opposite side of the spectrum, Emma Chamberlain stunned audiences with a beaded gold dress. Unfortunately this dress was designed by Louis Vuitton, and it made no reference to American Independence. Emma was among the majority of stars who showcased stunning garments, but failed to follow the theme. 

This lack of cohesion confused many. When surveying LM students about what they would have thought the theme was given the outfits presented, some responses were, “Wealth,” “Throwback,” “Futuristic,” and “Sci-fi.” 

This lack of commitment to the theme isn’t something new or unexpected for the Met Gala. Year after year stars disregard the theme leaving the public and artistic institutions to question the purpose of the event and what revisions need to be made to it. “Fashion’s biggest night out” has transformed into fashion’s biggest night of disappointment.