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The Meanings Behind your Favorite Met Gala Looks

From the Best Designers in the World to the Most Famous Celebrities, the Much Anticipated Met Gala took American Fashion to the Next Level.

The Met Gala is the largest display of elegant and sometimes outrageous fashion in the world. Each year the Met Gala takes place on the first Monday in May at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This year’s Met Gala was unable to occur at its annual time as it had for the past seven decades. The 75th Anniversary Met Gala took place on September 13th, 2021, with the theme of In America: The Lexicon of Fashion. Each Met Gala has a theme in which designers are to dress the world’s most famous celebrities in. This Met was very interesting with its arrangement of elegant and quite bold displays of the interpretation of American fashion. 

Best Looks of the Night

Some of your favorite looks from the red carpet held a meaning that related to American fashion in some way, whether or not it was outwardly obvious. Of course, one of the celebrities who always brings their A-game to the Met Gala, Kendall Jenner, embodied the American film and fashion icon, Audrey Hepburn, in her stunning Givenchy dress. She wore an elegant, form-fitting, sheer dress garnished with jewels from her bedazzled necklace to the floor. 

Taking different inspiration, Jennifer Lopez captured the western culture of America with a tasteful cowgirl look. She was looking remarkably stunning at fifty two, and she never disappoints. Her ranch inspired outfit was a plunging dark brown dress that suited her figure perfectly. Finished off with leather accessories such as a belt, bracelet, and necklace, as well as a cowboy hat to tie it all together. Nothing screams America more than a cowboy, or in this case, a stunning cowgirl. 

Lil Nas X took inspiration from Lady Gaga last year at the Met, who also previously wore an outfit with two hidden layers underneath.. Each layer had a personal meaning to him that represented his coming out story: from the royal coat, to the golden armour, he finally flaunted a gold studded bodysuit at the end. His outfits were a representation of his story moving up in the industry and still holding onto the fear of coming out. When the rapper revealed his sexual identity this past year it was a turning point for him.  Lil Nas X has set a precedent for LGBTQ+ artists industry wide and he hopes to continue to break down the stigma around coming out. 

If you’ve seen the award-winning series, Schitt’s Creek, then you know Dan Levy. He wore a very captivating outfit that held a lot of  meaning to him as an individual. It was made by J.W. Anderson in memory of the late ​​David Wojnarovicz, a queer American multimedia artist and an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. The designer took a piece of Wojnarovicz’s art and incorporated it into Levy’s outfit, which was a map with two men kissing cut out of it. His ocean blue suit was beautiful and carried the passionate message of celebrating queer love and visibility. Dan Levy wanted to recognize queer artists and how hard they have to fight to be successful in the American industry. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spurred quite the discussion on Twitter  and I am sure that is exactly what she intended to do. As a young congresswomen, she is  outspoken in her beliefs and with her white gown that had “Tax the Rich” plastered in red, she did not disappoint. This will go down as an iconic look at the Met Gala as it got everyone talking, and when I say everyone, I do mean everyone. To wear a dress with that message, many would say is hypocritical, but this was a powermove, an ultimate nod to the richest of the rich in America, who most of which were attending. She knew what she was doing, and she did it with grace.

Another person who got people talking, for different reasons, was Frank Ocean and his little green-Shrek-baby. The animatronic moved its head and mouth, mimicking a real baby. Many suppose that he was embodying the typical celebrity who uses their child as an accessory. His baby, Cody, he claims was inspired by American movie magic, but the fan interpretations are better.

Last but not least, the queen of the Met Gala arrived just before the red carpet was coming to an end. Rihanna is known to have some of the best outfits since she first attended the Met Gala in 2007. She wore a large black gown, which she said was supposed to resemble a black hoodie, a clothing garment that her community is discriminated against for wearing. Rihanna’s date, ASAP Rocky, wore a similarly large outfit that incorporated a  quilt. It was very vibrant and it resembled the idea of American memory quilts. The pair contrasted one another very well with their extravagant and contradicting ideas of American fashion. 

Why should you care about the Met Gala?

So, you may think, what makes the Met Gala different from any other red carpet event during the year? The Met Gala was established in 1948 as a way to raise money for the new annual fashion curator exhibit, the only department that does not receive funding. The Met Gala is the strongest expression of fashion where people don’t come to follow trends, they come to embrace the theme and put on a show. The Met Gala gives designers who do not conform to elegant styles, but desire more extravagant ones, a platform to express their creativity.. This year, more so than ever before, designers are deeply engaging around issues of diversity, sustainability, gender fluidity, and body positivity within their fashion to foster a more inclusive industry.

The Met Gala isn’t as Perfect as it Seems

Even though black designers have always been the backbone of American fashion, only a handful were able to attend. With the price of a table being $275,000 the world’s most famous brands like Prada, Chanel, and Versace took up most of the spots at the Gala. Black and minority designers are often overshadowed by these big names in the industry, leaving the media to swoon over them instead. Tickets are also very expensive at upwards of $30,000, where many of these designers invite the celebrities they dress, having to cover the very pricey cost of a red carpet and dinner party. They pay for the exposure and to have their name on something, something black designers dream of, yet are excluded from. It is also very difficult to get young designers involved because of the same reason. If the Met Gala were to really embrace inclusivity and diversity it would be far more accessible for minority designers. It is quite performative for celebrities to wear outfits taking a certain political stance, yet attend an event that disenfranchises minority designers. The opportunity to express black culture in American fashion was missed. Hopefully, next year will bring some change as the theme is still American fashion as the second part of the installment is presented.

Behind the Scenes

There is a lot of work that goes into planning the Met Gala, and in fact, there is a documentary called The First Monday in May that you can watch on Youtube. It follows Anna Wintour, the mastermind behind the Met Gala, and what goes into planning fashion’s biggest night.

See for Yourself

If you missed this year’s Met Gala, don’t worry, the second part of the American fashion exhibit, An Anthology of Fashion, will occur on the first Monday in May, 2022! You can check out all the best, and worst, dressed celebrities on the red carpet at the Met Gala here.

Riley-Kate is an undergraduate student at American University and is majoring in Public Relations and Strategic Communications and minoring in Sustainability. She intends to graduate in May of 2024. Riley-Kate's preferred pronouns are she/her/hers. Some of Riley-Kate's interests are playing tennis, drinking iced chai, traveling, photography, sustainability, writing, and fashion. She is also a big advocate for human and environmental rights. Riley-Kate is always thinking of ways that she can help make the world a better place.
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