Met Gala Asks What Is American Fashion—and Who Will get to Outline It?

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Poet and Met Gala co-chair Amanda Gorman channeled the Statue of Liberty in this sheer blue Vera Wang dress
Poet and Met Gala co-chair Amanda Gorman channeled the Statue of Liberty on this sheer blue Vera Wang gown. Her clutch, emblazoned with the phrase “Give Us Your Tired,” references Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on a plaque on the American landmark.
Photo by Theo Wargo / Getty Images

In some ways, fashion is as American as apple pie. Trendsetting designers from Calvin Klein to  Tommy Hilfiger to Tom Ford have set the tone for the nationwide business. Flip via the pages of Vogue or scroll via Instagram, and also you’ll seemingly come throughout considered one of Klein’s sports bras or Ford’s immaculately cut dresses.

Given the nation’s collective obsession with sartorial selections, it’s maybe unsurprising that the theme of Monday night time’s Met Gala—an annual profit hosted by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute—was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” (An accompanying two-part exhibition is ready to debut on the Manhattan museum on Saturday, September 18.)

“Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural shifts and a record of the forces, beliefs, and events that shape our lives,” says the Met’s director, Max Hollein, in a statement. “This … exhibition considers how fashion reflects evolving notions of identity in America and explores a multitude of perspectives through presentations that speak with powerful immediacy to some of the complexities of history. In looking at the past through this lens, we can consider the aesthetic and cultural impact of fashion on historical aspects of American life.”


As Noor Brara and Christine Ajudua write for Artnet News, the gala’s A-list attendees responded to this 12 months’s theme by questioning “what defines American fashion and … who gets to be American in the first place.”

Some company took the immediate actually, donning American flag–themed attire or, within the case of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, channeling the Statue of Liberty. Others interpreted “American fashion” extra broadly: pop star Billie Eilish in a Marilyn Monroe–impressed tulle ballgown, actress Lupita Nyong’o in a Versace denim dress, singer Lil Nas X in a gold bodysuit paying homage to Star Wars droid C-3PO.

Supermodel Iman sported one of many night time’s most memorable seems to be: a tiered, gold hoop skirt with an identical sunburst headdress designed by Dolce & Gabbana and British-American designer Harris Reed. As Iman informed Vogue on the pink carpet, “I thought it was beautiful because it really felt hopeful, a ray of light after all the darkness we felt.”

At the opposite finish of the spectrum was Kim Kardashian, who wore an all-black Balenciaga high fashion robe and an identical masks that lined her complete face. As the truth tv star joked on Instagram, “What’s more American than a T-shirt head to toe?!”

Numerous attendees used their apparel to share political messages. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez sported a gown emblazoned with the phrase “Tax the Rich,” whereas actress and mannequin Cara Delevingne wore a high that learn “Peg the patriarchy.” Another congresswoman, New York’s Carolyn B. Maloney, donned a floor-length gown that paid homage to the suffragist motion and the Equal Rights Amendment.

“I think that the emphasis on conscious creativity was really consolidated during the pandemic and the social justice movements,” Andrew Bolton, a curator on the Costume Institute, informed Vogue’s Laird Borrelli-Persson earlier this 12 months. “And I’ve been really impressed by American designers’ responses to the social and political climate, particularly around issues of body inclusivity and gender fluidity, and I’m just finding their work very, very self-reflective.”

As Darnell-Jamal Lisby writes for i-D, mainstream model within the United States has lengthy been outlined by white, male designers like Charles JamesHalston, Hilfiger and Klein. With this 12 months’s Costume Institute exhibition, curators on the Met are working to disrupt the style world’s male-centric bent.

“In America” will paint a extra various portrait of the historical past of American trend by that includes designers like Nzinga Knight, a Black Muslim girl; Jewish immigrant Jacob Davis, who created the rivet-lined denims that Levi Strauss patented in 1873; and Dapper DanApril Walker and Willi Smith, who performed an integral function within the evolution of what’s now generally known as “streetwear.”

“I really do believe that American fashion is undergoing a Renaissance,” Bolton informed Vogue in April. “I think young designers in particular are at the vanguard of discussions about diversity and inclusion.”

According to the Met, the primary a part of the exhibition will function almost 100 males’s and ladies’s ensembles by a variety of designers spanning the Nineteen Forties to the current. The second half, titled “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” will open on May 5, 2022, within the American Wing Period Rooms.

“The interiors present a survey of more than 300 years of American domestic life and tell a variety of stories—from the personal to the political, the stylistic to the cultural, and the aesthetic to the ideological,” notes the Met assertion. “… These mise-en-scènes will explore the role of dress in shaping American identity and address the complex and layered histories of the rooms.”

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