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Top 10 Most Meaningful Fashion Moments at the Met Gala

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Rutgers chapter.

The annual Met Gala fundraising event brings together some of the most incredible designers and creatives across all domains—actors, musicians, content creators, and more—to create one of the most memorable nights in fashion. This year’s theme was In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. This broad assignment allowed designers and guests to explore what American fashion means to them as individuals. The artistic interpretations of this year’s theme resulted in brilliantly meaningful looks. We’ll save you the legwork and walk you through our top ten favorites in no particular order.

  1. Quannah Chasinghorse

Quannah Chasinghorse is a 19-year-old Native American model who represented indigenous people and culture at the Met Gala. In an interview with Vogue, she spoke of her take on this year’s Met Gala theme. She believes in reclaiming Native American culture and that “it’s extremely important to represent and bring authentic and true American culture to this year’s theme, as Native American culture has been appropriated and misrepresented in fashion so many times.” Her beautiful, full-length gold dress designed by Peter Dundas was paired with gold heels and turquoise jewelry. Her aunt, Jocelyn Billy-Upshaw, was the Miss Navajo Nation 2006. Jocelyn flew Quannah her Navajo jewelry collection to pair with her exquisite dress. The turquoise jewelry represents protection, guidance, and love. Quannah’s presence at the Met Gala brought much-needed visibility to indigenous beauty, fashion, and culture.

  1. Nikkie de Jager

Nikkie de Jager—a transgender makeup artist and youtube star (NikkieTutorials)—wore a stunning teal dress designed by Edwin Oudshoorn. The gown features flowers and a sash that reads “Pay it no mind,” a famous line from transgender icon Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha’s middle initial stood for this manta of hers, as it was her response to questions she hated to answer typically regarding her gender identity. Nikkie wore a floral headdress inspired by the one Marsha wore in her most iconic photos. In her Instagram post, Nikkie wrote, “I knew I wanted to pay homage to a trans icon who was at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots… Marsha P. Johnson paved the way for so many of us, and I hope I made my community proud.” Every aspect of Nikkie’s ensemble was carefully cultivated to result in this perfect look for her very first met gala appearance. Designer Edwin Oudshoorn described some of the dress’ details in an Instagram post, noting the “18k gold flowers, leaves and buds created by goldsmith Digna Gorkovoi, combined with handmade silk beading”. Overall, her look served as an inspiring tribute to Marsha P. Johnson and LGBTQ+ history.

  1. Elliot Page

This year’s Met Gala was actor Elliot Page’s first red carpet appearance since coming out as transgender. He styled a slightly oversized black tuxedo with a pair of matching black sneakers, both courtesy of Balenciaga. Despite not dressing as extravagantly as one may expect for the Met Gala, Elliot Page made a very clear and impactful statement with one accessory to his outfit—the green rose. His look references Oscar Wilde, a writer persecuted due to his homosexuality during the late 1800s. According to LGBTQ+ historian Sarah Prager, “wearing a green carnation on your lapel was a secret, subtle hint that you were a man who loved other men.” It is unknown whether Oscar Wilde intended the green carnation to carry so much meaning, but it became a secret symbol of queerness; however, in today’s world, people in the LGBTQ+ community use a green carnation to portray their identities to others in public. Elliot Page added an American twist to this symbol by swapping the green carnation for a green rose, declared by Ronald Reagan in 1986 as the national flower of America. Elliot sent a powerful message at the Met Gala by using this green rose to show his support for those who struggle to have to hide their queer identity. 

  1. Dan Levy

Actor Dan Levy wore an ensemble created by Loewe and inspired by the work of AIDS activist David Wojarowicz. His top displayed the centerpiece of Wojnarowicz’s work, the outline of two men sharing a kiss, colored by a map of the world, representing “the arbitrary borders and divisions the queer community faced,” said Jonathan Anderson—a designer for Loewe—in an Instagram post. Levy’s top and pant sleeves display more of the map along with the sparkling deep blue ocean from the piece. This outfit consists of abounding detail in the texture and design, leaving the viewer finding something new to admire at every glance. This ode to Wojnarowicz celebrates the importance of art in social change and the unique beauty of queer love. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Levy “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.” He further added that he hoped to “[celebrate] the resilience, the love, and the joy of the community while honoring a crucial American voice that was taken from us too soon.” Levy indeed did a perfect job at accomplishing his goal.

  1. Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish is famously known for her oversized Gucci, Burberry, and Chanel outfits, occasionally matching her neon green and black hairdo. However, this summer, Billie hit her fans with a brand new look she’s never done before when she appeared on the covers of British Vogue. She introduced a blonde hairdo along with pink lingerie and nude latex. Billie Eilish’s Met Gala outfit seemed to have been foreshadowed since this summer. In her Vogue pictures, many mentioned her resemblance to American icon Marilyn Monroe. For her Met Gala debut, she provided Oscar de la Renta reference images of Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly. Billie, who has admitted to being much more confident in her skin, was glowing in her evening gown. She is also a vegan and an animal rights activist who aims to support designers that align with her morals. Because of this, she successfully convinced Oscar de la Renta to never sell fur again by agreeing to wear their gown to the Met Gala. 

  1. Saweetie

Rapper Saweetie made her appearance in an ethereal jeweled red Christian Cowan gown featuring two trains draped from her body. In an interview with ESSENCE, Saweetie explained that “one is the Black American heritage flag, and one of them is a Filipino flag because I’m a Blackapino girl, and that’s what makes me an American.” She truly honored her cultural heritage in her elegant dress. Her hair was styled slicked back, and encrusted with carefully placed jewels to match the glimmer of her dress, earrings, and nails. Saweetie’s perfect encapsulation of what being an American means to her was doubtlessly one of the most radiant and meaningful looks of the night.

  1. Yara Shahidi

Yara Shahidi is a 21-year-old American actress, model, and activist. Given that this year’s Met Gala theme was In America: A Lexicon of Fashion, Yara paid homage to a prominent American fashion icon—Josephine Baker. She hoped to honor the contributions of such a legendary Black American artist, dubbed as the ‘Black Venus’ and ‘Creole Goddess.’ Josephine Baker’s “iconic looks and beauty symbolized Black American culture during the 1920s and made her an international star,” wrote D’Shonda Brown of ESSENCE. Yara Shahidi worked with her longtime stylist Jason Bolden and the Dior team to incorporate as many elements of Baker’s style into her dress to accomplish her look. Josephine Baker and Christian Dior were friends, and hence when she toured in America, she only wore Dior. Yara Shahidi explored the ample references of Baker’s looks Dior had to offer, and the Dior team created an exquisitely embroidered and beaded gown that hugged Yara’s features perfectly. Paired with her dress were a gold tulle veil, elbow-length gloves, and elegant jewelry. In a video she filmed for Dior, Yara Shahidi says, “What we know to be true is that so many young women aren’t given the space to be heard consistently,” she then went on to explain a vital revelation of hers: “My being assertive, my being driven, and my being committed is not something to ever be ashamed of.” Yara’s powerful presence at the Met Gala was an authentically inspiring homage to Josephine Baker, and we hope she made her proud.

  1. Gemma Chan 

Actor Gemma Chan wore a dazzling black sequin dress featuring stunning dragon embroidery. She shared in an Instagram post that the dragon design was “traced from a textile for a handscroll from the @metmuseum collection, dated to the Qing dynasty.” She paired her Prabal Gurung dress with a long pastel green train and green eyeshadow to match. With this look, she paid homage to Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star in Hollywood’s golden era. Chan describes her as “A trailblazer, fashion icon and woman ahead of her time – she paved the way for those who came after and continues to inspire.” Gemma’s hair was braided in a structured up-do, a clear nod to a hairstyle of Wong’s. Every detail of Gemma’s Met Gala look was carefully orchestrated to create the beautiful celebration of her heritage that we saw on the red carpet.

  1. Lil Nas X

Montero Lamar Hill, better known as Lil Nas X, is a 22-year-old American rapper and singer-songwriter. He rose to fame in 2019 when he released his country rap single “Old Town Road.” Lil Nas X wore three unparalleled show-stopping Versace outfits for his first-ever Met Gala red carpet debut. Each of the three outfits represents stages of his growth journey from the beginning of his career until now. He started the night with a giant, regal gold cloak, illustrating how he was ‘in his shell’ at the beginning of his career. His cloak demanded attention from the crowd and had a long, flowing train. His next outfit, a golden armor, showed him slightly breaking out of his shell and into the industry, but not without his guard up. Though Lil Nas X came out as gay in 2019, he notes that this year, he feels he “REALLY came out … I think it represents this breakdown to THIS”, as he shows his final fitted gold bodysuit. His last look was vulnerable in its snug fit yet powerful in its stunning glittering design. His three Versace outfits had a more profound, personal meaning than meets the eye. As he stood on the red carpet, Lil Nas X radiated joy and was truly a force to be reckoned with, deserving of all his gold drapings and more. 

  1. Megan Thee Stallion

Rapper and professional hot girl Megan Thee Stallion graced the Met Gala in an elegant baby pink gown featuring a classic sweetheart neckline and delicate megawatt crystals placed consistently throughout. Coach’s creative director Stuart Vevers shared with Vogue that the dress was “crafted of silk georgette and cascading ruffled tulle.” He then added that he aimed to take a classic romantic look and add some flair—that’s where the adornment of crystals and voluminous tulle come in. Evidently, Meg’s gown was designed with influences of vintage slip dresses; Vevers said that “the silk was hand-dyed and washed to give it a soft, nostalgic effect.” Her classic old Hollywood curls and makeup completed the look, encapsulating her inspiration of “Old Hollywood, with a hot girl twist,” as she described to Vogue. Wearing a more classic piece on the carpet of the Met Gala comes with the risk of fading into the background, but Meg’s risk paid off, as her presence was anything but covert. I think I speak for all of us when I say that her look enthralled us all, as always.

The Met Gala truly brought together creatives across realms for this stunning night in fashion. Though we adored countless looks from the night, these meaningful ensembles were truly our favorites. They captured the theme with perfection while adding their own personal touches to their interpretations of In America: a Lexicon of Fashion.

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Rutgers '23