Looking Through the Met: A Lexicon of Fashion

Graphic by Ilsiia Shakirova
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The last time the Met Gala was not held on the first Monday of May was in 2004. Since Anna Wintour took charge of the event, it has been held on that day of the week for years, so much so that “the first Monday in May” has become synonymous with the gala. Due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Met Gala was held on the second Monday of September with the theme “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” and a dress code of “American Independence.” The 2021 and 2022 galas were part of a two-part exhibition, which is why the 2022 theme was also “In America.” 

Few celebrities nailed the “American” theme. There were many ways attendees could have embodied the theme of “A Lexicon of Fashion” and dress code of “American Independence.” However, many outfits felt bland, out of place and seemingly had no consideration for the theme. 

Like many men who attend the Met Gala, Channing Tatum opted for a traditional black suit, which was boring. Similarly, Justin Bieber walked the carpet in a simple suit. It seems every year at the Met Gala, many of the male attendees play it safe when really the gala is a chance to take risks and make an impression. Though many of the men delivered mediocre looks, there were a couple of good outfits — even though they may not have been the most on theme. Most notably, Lil Nas X wore three different Versace outfits on the carpet and his gold-armored look was definitely one of the most memorable of the night. 

As for looks that were on theme, Gemma Chan stole the night in her Prabal Gurung dress. She sported a black, sequined mini dress featuring a dragon and a long pastel green train. The look was a reference to Anna May Wong, the first Chinese American Hollywood star, who is remembered for persevering through years of stereotyping and prejudice in the film industry. Wong is a true example of “American Independence” and paved the way for Asian actresses in Hollywood, including Chan, which is why her look was both on theme and a beautiful tribute. 

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Many of the outfits at the 2021 gala were off theme, but that doesn’t mean the looks themselves were bad. Olivia Rodrigo made her Met Gala debut in a black lace Saint Laurent jumpsuit that felt very punk rock. Billie Eilish looked stunning in her Oscar de la Renta gown, which featured a 15-foot train. Kendall Jenner took inspiration from Audrey Hepburn, wearing a sheer, crystal-embellished Givenchy gown that may have been one of her best Met looks to date. 

Overall, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” was not a very exciting Met Gala. Some of the issues may have stemmed from the fact that the Gala was smaller than usual — however, that does not excuse many attendees’ lack of creativity with their looks and failure to adhere to the theme.

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