May 21, 2024


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The Met Gala Returns “In America”: An Anthology of Fashion


Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

After its cancellation in 2020 and its lackluster September relaunch in 2021, the most highly-covered convergence of celebrities and fashion icons in American media returned to its regular schedule on the first Monday of May this year. The theme, which Vogue summarized as “gilded glamour,” was chosen in celebration of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s newest exhibition, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion.”

Fashion fans, or simply anyone following along on Twitter, may recall a similarity between this year’s theme and 2021’s “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” and there is, in fact, a good reason for this. In April 2021, The Costume Institute, a wing of the Met Museum that owns a collection of over 33,000 costumes and accessories, announced the formation of a two-part exhibition that would celebrate American designers and span from September 2021 to September 2022. The 2021 “Lexicon of Fashion” showcase was to, as described by the Met Museum’s overview page, pay homage to the “modern vocabulary of American fashion based on its expressive qualities,” while “An Anthology of Fashion” would “highlight sartorial narratives that relate to the complex and layered histories of the American wing period rooms.” In layman’s terms, the former focused on garments from the 1940s on, and the latter would primarily involve fashion from the eighteenth century to present day. “Lexicon” delivered a display of the breadth, versatility, and maneuverability of American style in its later years, while “Anthology” explores the specific cornerstones and foundational modes of U.S. fashion upon which “Lexicon” era designers would flourish. 

In the years preceding the “In America” exhibitions, the Met Gala prescribed slightly more simplistic themes— – in 2019, it was “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” in 2018, “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Imagination,” and so on. This deviation from a clear-cut dress code and subsequent move to a broader range of interpretations, which relied on time periods rather than subjects, allowed for stylists to experiment and let their creativity run wild. While in the past, most attendees adhered to the Gala’s theme in ways both subtle and obvious, the past two years have produced more guests who paid little to no attention to the premise and chose to personalize their attire, for better or worse. Nonetheless, May 2nd’s Gala delivered several looks that were individualized while still honoring the theme.

While Kim Kardashian took Marilyn Monroe’s vintage Jean-Louis dress out for a spin, model Precious Lee was walking the Met stairs in a look that combined past and present, ethereal and glamorous. Lee collaborated with designer Joseph Altuzarra to create a piece complete with fitted headpiece and mini train. The dress was fitted with ten thousand bronze paillettes, which began just above the thigh and increased in volume down the train, as well as a light smattering on the wrists. Stylist Patti Wilson added a necklace of golden teeth, which offset the subtle golden eyebrows that were pasted on Lee’s face. Already one of high fashion’s best-dressed models, Lee stole the show once again.

Musician Rosalía made her Met Gala debut following the release of her album Motomami in an outfit that gave a nod to the theme and channeled her own original sense of style. The dress, ivory silk with glittering embellishments that ended in ruffles towards her feet, was styled with matching earrings, a slicked-back bun, and a pair of futuristic black sunglasses. The real winner however, was the back of the dress, which included a rhinestone circlet that snaked around her shoulders and embroidered rhinestone plates that ran in increments all the way down her spine. Rosalía, a personal favorite, established herself as one-to-watch in the fashion world right off the bat. Her ability to blend modern European street-style and old school glamor add a much needed refresher to an industry already in the midst of a timely Renaissance.

Kid Cudi made a standout appearance on Monday looking like royalty in an Olympic blue suit and cape, designed by Kenzo. Cudi’s cape was sewn with a silk poppy lining which showed just enough of the white ruffled cuffs attached to a simple dress shirt underneath. The look was finished off with polished gold pins, chain, and a few cool blue gemstones placed carefully around his eyes. The finished product was sleek, cool, regal, and easily topped the list in men’s fashion for the night. An honorable mention goes to Sebastian Stan, who followed Cudi in the solid color trend by sporting a bright pink oversized suit, designed by Valentino and complete with matching hot pink sneakers.

Paloma Elesser, a plus-sized fashion model, walked the famous red carpet staircase in a custom Coach corset and slip dress. The look, inspired by Courtney Love’s affair with vintage slip dresses during the 1990s, includes a train made of embroidered lace and a soft white bustier that sits on the outside of the dress itself. The most eye-catching part of this look however, is the layered pearl necklace that wrapped all the way from Elesser’s chin to her décolletage, ending in a simple jeweled drop. Elesser worked with stylist Carlos Nazario and Coach creative director Stuart Vevers to mix traditional lingerie design with modern day haute couture.

Billie Eilish continued to prove herself as a champion of sustainable fashion this year, after wearing an Oscar de la Renta dress in 2021 with the condition that the brand stop selling fur. She arrived on Monday in a custom Gucci gown that was composed entirely of upcycled materials. The dress was satin, save for the sleeves, which were light green lace. She paired the look with a distinctive black choker dotted with patterned rhinestones, a choice that brought the otherwise Victorian-era look into the 21st century. The 20-year-old, who in part became famous for her modern street-style fashion choices that favored the oversized and baggy, is beginning to demonstrate her mobility between genres.

Lastly, honorable mentions go out to Lily James, who wore an intricately (and almost entirely) beaded Versace number in lavender, and Bella Hadid, who sported Burberry and managed to perfectly combine gothic punk with Victorian royalty. 

The night, despite being fraught with far too many all-black outfits, shoulder pads, and baseball caps, turned out some memorable gems in the end. Perhaps one of the most surprising developments of all was the lack of custom Versace looks that usually dominate the Met carpet. Let’s hope the fashion giant is just busy cooking up big things for next year, when, if all goes well, attendees will decide to leave the baseball caps at home.

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