America: A Lexicon of…Old Hollywood?

The Met Gala that was doomed to fail.


By Maile Quenzer

The annual Met Gala is no stranger to stirring up controversy and allowing anyone to feel like a fashion critic for the day. This years “In America: a Lexicon of Fashion” theme was no exception to this yearly conversation. But first, let’s hold a review session on what exactly the Met Gala is. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, houses Anna Wintour’s (the editor-in-chief of Vogue) costume institute, coinciding with the Met Gala and its yearly theme. Alongside icons and super spreader after parties, the true intention of the Met Gala is to fundraise money for said Costume institute. The money is raised by the biggest fashion houses buying out tables at the gala. Tables cost as much as 300,000 dollars and are filled with celebrities, sponsored models and the hottest names on the internet. So…with a theme like “America: a lexicon of fashion” the least you could expect from attendees would be a “lexicon” of cultural representation right? Highlight diverse American designers? Pay homage to those who influenced the mainstream consumption of style? Unfortunately, due to the exclusive atmosphere of the Met, paired with the dominance of Euro fashion houses, the theme of “In America” was doomed to fail. 

Steff Yotka of Vogue questioned exhibition leader Andrew Bolton on the theme, in hopes for him to provide a literal definition of “America”, “ In a way, when you walk around the show, it could be 104 different definitions…”, Bolton says. 

Although there were far too few who did the theme justice, there were those who shone amongst the magic mike menswear and lazy silhouettes. Niki de Jager honored black trans liberator Marsha P Johnson with the words “Pay it no mind” hanging from her gown. Honoring the ballroom scene, Amandla Stenberg showcased a deconstructed tuxedo look, paired with braids in the style of a durag. Ascending the stairs was Quannah ChasingHorse of Han Gwich’in and Lakota tribes, dawned in Navajo jewelry and a fan-like gold gown. A$AP Rocky and Rihanna were a pair that also did the theme justice, with A$AP being the only attendee to pay tribute to quilting, a popular American pastime, draping a multi-colored quilt over his tuxedo. Next to him, Rihanna wore a simplistic black coat/gown, meant to signify how a black hoodie alone can get you killed, in reference to the murder of Trayvon Martin. 

Jennifer Lopez was the most treacherous look of the night, as she showed up in what appeared to be various animal skins, silver medallions, layers of fringe and a fedora. An ode to the wild wild west…? Shawn Mendes showed up shirtless, wearing a leather blazer and suspenders in what could be mistaken as a Chippendales stage costume. Standing out the most however, was the plethora of old Hollywood references. Some did the sub theme justice, like Yara Shahidi and Anok Yai paying homage to black icon Josephine Baker. But soon enough the over saturation of 50’s glamour turned the gala from a lexicon of fashion to a lexicon of old Hollywood. 

It’s safe to say that the theme got lost in the individual interpretations of America. “In America” will go down in history as the theme better suited for an exhibition than a gala.