Star-spangled Met Gala manifests ‘American Independence’

By Ethereal Violet Reyes and Gustavo Castillo, Sept. 21, 2021

Stars flooded the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 13 for America’s biggest philanthropic fashion event of the year, the Met Gala. This year, stars showed off their interpretation of the night’s theme “American Independence” with a mix of both the spectacular and the distasteful embodying the chaos that is America.

Successful looks symbolically expressed the attendee’s thoughts on “American Independence” with a clear message or tribute presented in thread. Looks that failed to turn heads lacked thoughtfulness to the theme and appeared like dinner party outfits.

A$AP Rocky’s ERL outfit was heavily slammed on social media for resembling Cap’n Crunch despite his ingenious take on the “rags to riches” mentality that drives the American dream. Mid event, Rocky shed the colorful quilt made from personal fabrics, like his dad’s robe and boxer shorts, to reveal a well-fitted black and white suit with silver embellishments.

The Met Gala, first organized in 1948, is an annual fundraising gala which benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York City. With an entry fee of at least $30,000, according to The New York Times, this event gives designers in the fashion industry a chance to showcase their work on some of the globe’s biggest stars.

The guest list was one-third of its usual attendance with co-chairs all a part of Generation Z: Billie Eilish, Timothée Chalamet, Naomi Osaka and Amanda Gorman. Co-chairs are appointed each year by the Met Gala and are assigned to help with the guest list, food, decor and the general feel of the evening. They also serve as the faces for the event.

The four co-chairs expressed different perspectives and outlooks on what “American Independence” meant to them, and it was shown in their looks.

“The New Old Hollywood”: Eilish captured the nostalgic Hollywood era while repping an Oscar de la Renta rosewater gown inspired by icon Marilyn Monroe. For this look, there was no need to over accessorize as Eilish’s ethereal beauty, growth and maturity as a woman radiated. The contrast between this dress and Eilish’s usual unisex streetwear style made the moment magical. This dress was a perfect ohmage to old Hollywood, and it was a boundary pushing moment for Eilish, who has been vocal about her preference for baggy clothes in the past.

Other attendees participating in this “old Hollywood” interpretation were Barbie Ferreira, from HBO’s “Euphoria,” who wore Jonathan Simkhai in a reinterpretation of the traditional flapper look using pearls to elevate the idea of femininity. Anok Yai, the second Black model to open a fashion show in history, rocked an Oscar de La Renta Dress with a black, ostrich-feathered shawl which created a modern and classy look to represent the 1920s entertainer and activist, Josephine Baker. Kendall Jenner also paid tribute to old Hollywood in a see-through Givenchy gown bedazzled head-to-toe in tribute of Audrey Hepburn’s dress in “My Fair Lady.”

“Real American”: Chalamet represented America in a surprisingly realistic way with a satin Haider Ackermann tuxedo jacket and white sweats paired with white Chuck Taylors. This presentation paid homage to his hometown, New York, by mixing upper class wealth with middle class necessities, like Chucks, showing versatility and capturing the hustle of New York. The look felt clean but achievable for young men around the globe watching.

American singer Ciara followed this theme by wearing a green, sequined Dundas football dress with the number three to reference Russell Wilson’s, her husband, Seattle Seahawks football jersey. She paired this dress with a Superbowl ring and a bedazzled football clutch. Although it was chic and bright, it represented football, the gritty yet lovable American sport.

“Red, White and Blue”: Osaka and Gorman both took a literal take in representing America. Osaka honored her Japanese and Haitian roots with bold shapes and colors to bring warmth to the look. She showed Caribbean inspiration by wrapping her body and tying it off with a bright-red obi belt. Amanda Gorman, the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate, wore a stunning and simple Statue of Liberty-inspired Vera Wang dress. Bedazzled with sparkles emulating stars, Gorman explained her dress represented true patriotism with a modern twist, how the Statue of Liberty would look like if she were to step down from her New York throne.

Kim Kardashian showed up in a black tee, covering her face, and all her skin, with a tight black material which made her appear like a silhouette. Generating conversation all over social media, her “anti-glamour” Balenciaga look proved a point; even if you can’t see who she is, her infamous silhouette and demeanor is so blatantly obvious because she defines American culture. Having blown up on reality television with “Keeping up with the Kardashians” in 2007, Kardashian has embraced her celebrity status and marketed herself as a symbol of popular culture. Although Kardashian has received heavy criticism for her look, being capable of arriving to an event completely masked and having everyone know who you are regardless is truly a remarkable level of fame.

Outfits from attendees such as Channing Tatum, Madison Beer and Eugene Lee Yang fell short of expectation, feeling rushed and completely missing the theme, giving off the energy of a high school prom rather than a Met Gala.

Korean pop artist CL failed to impress in poor-fitting Calvin Klein underwear paired with a jean dress which, according to CL, was based on the traditional Korean Hanbok. The outfit was unflattering, and to make matters worse, it was designed by Alexander Wang, who faced sexual assault allegations in the past year. Although jean is an American staple, the concept flopped due to CL’s questionable decisions.

Grimes’ futuristic white and silver flowy dress, paired with a metallic mask and sword slung over her shoulder, was an example of how looks presented at the Met Gala are truly a form of art which can be completely up to interpretation. Audiences took to social media, generating conversations about the outfit with sentiments like, “what’s more American than being able to have a weapon in public?”

Met Gala served unforgettable, thought provoking and occasionally lackluster looks which, regardless of their accuracy to the theme of “American Independence,” will be burned into fashion history books of 2021.

Graphic courtesy of Sharon Wu. 

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