United States of ‘Aesthetica’: The Met Gala returns

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By Hemen Mesfin, Phillip Nguyen – Grimes, CC BY 2.0, Agência Brasil Fotografias – Simone Biles at the 2016 Olympics all-around gold medal podium (28262782114).jpg, CC BY 2.0, SIGMA – Vimeo: Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, CC BY 3.0, “Lil Nas X” by Cosmopolitan UK is licensed with CC BY 3.0. Dvsross – https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvsross/14177118417/, CC BY 2.0, (images altered for graphic).

Now is the winter of our discount sweatpants made glorious by this comeback of couture. After a year’s absence, the Met Gala has returned with a vengeance! 

On Sept. 13, a flock of the famous descended upon New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art for their Costume Institute’s (mostly) annual fundraiser/costume party, with this year’s theme being “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion”. 

So what exactly counts as “American Fashion”? 

For some, it was America itself.

Olympic icon Simone Biles stunned in a star-spangled, 80-pound Area Couture x Athleta gown and Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman resembled an American Athena (by way of the Statue of Liberty) in Vera Wang.

Naomi Osaka nodded to her Haitian/Japanese background in Louis Vuitton with a pattern designed by her sister and Saweetie dazzled in a Christian Cowan gown that incorporated the Black American and Filipino flags. Model/activist Quannah Chasinghorse (of Hän Gwich’in and Sicagnu/Oglala Lakota descent) was a golden goddess in her Dundas gown and layers of intricate turquoise/silver jewelry from Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw.

For others, it was the timeless glamour of the bygone. 

Actress/activist Yara Shahidi and model Anok Yai wore looks (Dior and Oscar de la Renta respectively) inspired by the legendary entertainer/activist Josephine Baker. Gemma Chan donned Prabal Gurung in homage to Anna May Wong, one of Hollywood’s first Asian American stars. 

Normani served in a Valentino gown with Lorraine Schwartz jewels that would make Elizabeth Taylor proud. Billie Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion both channeled Marilyn Monroe in Oscar de la Renta and Coach. Actress/singer MJ Rodriguez dropped jaws in a legendary Thom Browne 1960s-Victorian Era homage worthy of a September issue cover. Seriously, we should be talking about this look more.

Jennifer Lopez was among the many to take things to the Wild Wild West, going full yeehaw in Ralph Lauren. Ralph Dead Redemption anybody? Lupita Nyong’o elevated the classic blue denim gown in an effervescent Versace number and Rosalía rocked some seriously long red fringe in Rick Owens.

Others made their voices heard. 

Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez wore a Brother Vellies gown emblazoned with “Tax The Rich”, fellow representative Carolyn Maloney sported an Antonios Couture homage to the suffragettes and Cara Delevigne’s Dior outfit proclaimed, “Peg the Patriarchy”. Nikkie de Jager, Dan Levy and Amandla Stenberg paid dazzling tributes to LGBTQ+ history: de Jager in an Edwin Oudshoorn floral tribute to trans activist/Stonewall participant Marsha P Johnson, Levy in a Loewe homage to artist/activist David Wojnarowicz and Stenberg in a Thom Browne homage to the ballroom scene (with their braids fashioned into a durag!).

Shout out to the men for stepping it up this year! Marvel’s man of the moment Simu Liu gave rockabilly/early rockstar vibes in Fendi while rising playwright/producer Jeremy O. Harris swept through in a Tommy Hilfiger opera coat, all in the name of Aaliyah. Troye Sivan subverted gender norms in a clingy Altu by Joseph Altuzarra dress and a Prada clad Frank Ocean showed up with a baby Shrek. F1 racer Sir Lewis Hamilton (in Kenneth Nicholson) used his position to spotlight young black designers: he invited the aforementioned Nicholson, Jason Rembert (Aliette) and Edvin Thompson (Theophilio) to his table at the Gala. 

Rapper Lil Nas X gave the world THREE iconic Versace looks! When you stunt this hard, the theme is irrelevant.

However, there were a few rather questionable choices. 

While many praised Kim Kardashian’s full coverage, black Balenciaga outfit, it’s hard to not see her as a fancy stagehand. Was she walking the Met Gala or moving props? Grimes’ Iris Van Herpen gown was a vision in silver, but were the props really necessary? It seemed a little “three years late for the Heavenly Bodies Gala”. Some showed up looking like they bought their outfits last minute at Forever 21…names will not be named.

Oh well, not all of us can be Rihanna (in all black Balenciaga, no less).

This year‘s theme will return for next year’s Met Gala; so here’s to more serves and (hopefully) more people will understand the assignment. To quote Miranda Priestly, “That’s all.”

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