The first Monday in May, the second Monday in September. The Met Gala is back after more than a year of Covid delays.
The Met Gala is, quite frankly, about understanding the assignment. And it is that criteria upon which we cast our discerning eye over attendees. It’s a night when those who have a unique relationship with fashion (primarily models, actors, musicians, society mavens and influencers) celebrate the integral role it plays for them, and pay homage to their stylists and the designers that help shape who they are in their public facing brand.
Most importantly, it’s not a night when ‘best’ or ‘worst’ dressed can be accounted for by ‘taste’ (although many mainstream fashion publications will use their bias). Those like Rihanna and Sarah Jessica Parker understand the Met Gala is not the time to worry about making the best dressed list in the Daily Mail. Instead, it is a night when we are offered voyeuristic insight into the minds of these celebrities, and how they understand an assignment.
This year’s assignment was a celebration of America, with the event officially opening the Costume Institute's fashion exhibition In America: A Lexicon of Fashion (the actual reason for the event itself is often lost in the sea of fabulousness and celebrity). The gala’s dress code reflected that mood: American Independence.
It’s interesting to us that the new wave of American fashion talent - Pyer Moss, Christopher John Rogers, Peter Do, Collina Strada et al - were barely represented on the red carpet, with celebrities turning to many international or European brands to interpret that theme. Are these brands just better connected with today’s celebrity? Or do they simply have much more money to throw at an event like this? Props to designer Aurora James and Emily Adams Bode for being some of that new generation represented.
Herewith, our favourite looks from the night of fashion - from the thought-provoking to the simply fabulous...
ASAP Rocky, in ERL, and Rihanna, wearing Balenciaga
I spent ages looking at photos of Bennifer at the Met Gala this morning and couldn’t put my figure on what bored me about them. Now I know: they aren’t Rihanna and ASAP, here going ‘red carpet official’ for the first time in the most perfect way. Rihanna always knows what ‘we’ need from her and she delivers in spades. This gorgeous and voluminous Balenciaga is infinitely more wearable than any other of her Met Gala gowns and invokes a hip hop athleisure vibe on track with the Americana theme, while ASAP’s quilting could also see it being a statement on homelessness in the US (and references the great American tradition of quilting). He is the only plus one who could stand beside this perfection and hold his own. There’s a reason they had to walk the red carpet after everyone else, and it’s not just because Rihanna is always notoriously late…. Everyone else would just have gone home if they’d seen this perfect display as soon as they got out of the limo. - Rebecca Wadey
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Brother Vellies
Shut it down, congresswoman AOC wins with her gown designed by Aurora James, adorned with a slogan that makes a statement about America in 2021: Tax the rich. - Zoe Walker Ahwa
I came ‘virtually’ to the Met today wondering if anyone was going to give a sartorial representation of the issues crippling America. I wondered about a seven week old foetus but of course AOC found a way to communicate efficiently through this beautiful piece by Aurora James, who appeared on the cover of Vogue last year and started the 15% pledge, asking stores to pledge 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned businesses. - RW
Carey Mulligan in Valentino
If I went to the Met Gala I too would want to wear Valentino because designer Pierpaolo Piccioli makes the most amazing clothes that seem easy to wear, he is universally beloved, and given he works so well with volume, his clothes aren’t obvious starlet material - and therefore attract the most interesting clients. Until Carey appeared in this shocking pink frock I thought his Met outing was restricted to Nicola Peltz’s snore of an American princess look and I was bereft. Now I understand the importance of a staggered red carpet because Carey just swooped in like Gwyneth winning her Oscar in Ralph Lauren on steroids. - RW
Anyone wearing Valentino
Valentino’s creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli always invites the best crew to be his guests at the Met Gala - in 2018, he hosted the wonderful Frances McDormand who wore a huge feathered headdress and oversized teal cape, and in 2019, attended with the one, the only, Jackie Collins. The genius of his guest list is that while it may seem a random assortment of people, they always look like they are having the most fun. Enter this year’s list: Whoopi Goldberg (LOVE), Carey Mulligan (LOVE, see above), Normani, Janet Mock and….TikToker Dixie Damelio?! That last name is almost unforgivable but love to see one of fashion’s most highly regarded and beloved designers extend his mana to embrace the new wave of fashion influencers. - ZW
Ella Emhoff in Adidas by Stella McCartney
Sportswear has traditionally been a key component of defining American fashion, so I’m not surprised at all to see various references on this Met Gala red carpet; this one from Ella is one of the best. While this is by a British designer, I love this Fashion (capital F) take on the sportswear tradition worn by the stylish stepdaughter of vice president Kamala Harris. The sequin pants are very ‘90s Maharishi, and Ella’s diamante stud eye makeup is giving me flashbacks to when I was a teenager in the early noughties. Some people on Twitter described this as very ‘menstrual cycle’ realness, which, great; let’s normalise that. - ZW
Obsessed. This works for me on every level. - RW
Pharrell and Helen Lasichanh in Chanel
Look, Chanel has a terrible track record on the red carpet. Something just doesn’t sit right with many of the looks that they’re forcing their brand ambassadors to wear right now (though I did love Kristen Stewart’s Chanel couture teddy set at the Venice Film Festival). So I didn’t exactly have high hopes for Chanel does Americana at the Met Gala - but fortunately they do have Pharrell on their very long celebrity brand ambassador list, and he manages to pull most things off. This Americana country cowboy references the theme, they look cool, they’re styled from head to toe. -ZW
Dan Levy in Loewe
YES Dan! I love a red carpet moment with a political message, and the Schitt’s Creek star delivers in this fabulously outrageous ensemble. It’s designed by Jonathan Anderson for Loewe and draws on the work of American multimedia artist and LGBTQIA+ activist, David Wojnarovicz - featuring his work Fuck You Faggot Fucker, named after a homophobic cartoon the artist had come across.
“But rather than feed on the message of hate, we wanted to celebrate queer love and visibility - acknowledging how hard artists like Wojnarovicz had to fight, while also presenting the imagery in a way that offered a hopeful message,” Dan wrote on Instagram. “Tonight, we’re celebrating the resilience, the love, and the joy of the community while honoUring a crucial American voice that was taken from us too soon.” - ZW
Fashion is political and I adore this message. I also appreciate the tiny details, like the roses on his boots that pay homage to David Rose, the character who allowed him this voice/privilege. - RW
Lorde in Bode
I’m obsessed with Bode, so obsessed with this antique adorned earth goddess look. The brand is designed by Emily Adams Bode, who often draws on the American traditions of quilting and craft - which very much speaks to Lorde’s crunchy nature era. Some people might say that this, like some of her songs, is giving faint Lana del Rey vibes and….they wouldn’t be wrong. But she looks great! Please also note the white shoes which I’m also into. - ZW
I’ve had Lorde’s Mood Ring in my head for days now and I love that with this look she’s moving from ethereal faerie into serious cult leader. I’m down for some sun salutations. Also her face has never looked more beautiful so kudos to Kiwi makeup artist Amber D for her deft touch. - RW
Megan Rapinoe in Sergio Hudson
Red, white and blue, an obvious take on the theme but with a twist; a modern day all-American pantsuit. We love to see it on the red carpet, especially when paired with a statement Edie Parker clutch reading ‘America’ on one side and ‘In gay we trust’ on the other. Also very American? Problematic underwear brand Victoria’s Secret, who Megan has tagged in her Instagram post. Obsessed with how much they must have paid her to help rehabilitate her brand. - RW
Troye Sivan in ALTU by Joseph Altuzarra
Styled by top creative Mel Ottenberg - the man behind Rihannna’s iconic Met Gala ensembles - Aussie Troye is wearing a ‘90s esque cut out dress from ALTU by Joseph Altuzarra; a brand I can find no information about, other than a private Instagram followed by 137 people with the bio “a genderful world” and a holding page that says its launching in November. Look, Troye is a fashion favourite, he can wear whatever and look effortlessly cool. Love the minimalism. If I was his sister/aunt/cousin/friend, I would be that person and say, ‘pull your shoulders back!’. - ZW
Michaela Coel in Balenciaga
She looks radiant in this full sequin catsuit - a much cooler Balenciaga option than Kim K’s black, face-covered take. - ZW
Anna Wintour in Oscar de la Renta
The reason everyone is gathered here today. The Vogue editor is also the host of the Met Gala, a role she has held since the mid 90s - and one that sees her oversee and approve every single invitee. Blame her for Addison Rae being invited this year!
Usually her Met Gala look is a given: classic, elegant, subtly referencing the theme, and always by Chanel. This year she mixes it up in a floral gown by Oscar de la Renta, which she described as a tribute to the legacy of her fashion designer friend who passed away in 2014. It’s not adventurous, but I like it! This is Anna’s version of pushing the fashion envelope: changing designers after many, many years. - ZW
Seeing Anna in Oscar de la Renta instead of Chanel is evoking strong Versailles vibes for me and I’m here for it. Recently immortalised in Halston on Netflix, the story of five American designers, including Oscar, going to Versailles to battle it out against French designers on the catwalk - this feels like a strong show of post-Covid support to local industry from Ms Wintour. - RW
Kaia Gerber in Oscar de la Renta
The Met Gala is known as the Oscars of fashion and is the opportunity for genuine creativity, self-expression and fun; I love that and long may it continue. I do feel a little as though its red carpet has become a vehicle for celebrities to create a meme-able moment, with extravagant entrances and outfit reveals all trying to outdo each other (I read a Tweet that said it runs the risk of veering into Drag Race-esque lip sync reveals shtick; Lady Gaga’s 16-minute reveal being the Sasha Velour rose petal moment that sparked the others that followed). My point here is: not all fashion needs to be loud or extreme. This black gown on model Kaia Gerber speaks to that - very Park Avenue Princess, New York society debutante ball. That’s (partly) American fashion! She’s just missing the satin gloves. - ZW
Billie Eilish in Oscar de la Renta
I actually don’t love this, as the Marilyn Monroe reference is way too obvious for me. But it’s actually more than just a tulle gown with a corset and 15-foot train: the singer, and vocal vegan, would only agree to work with Oscar de la Renta if they committed to ending the use of fur in their collections. Now that is influence. - ZW