Politics and fashion have had a long and occasionally tense connection, and it’s only going to continue. We all know that what we wear is political, whether it was produced by someone or worn by someone or what we’re trying to communicate with it. The concept of fashion and politics coexisting in the same place is unquestionable, since clothing is constantly utilised to communicate signals and says volumes about the wearer’s mood. For as long as fashion has thrived, its devotees have willingly accepted the degree to which it may be utilised as both politics and aesthetics. Fashion, particularly in the twentieth century, has been a persistent instrument for people attempting to make a political or some other statement. Fashion has long been used as a means of social protest. Clothes may now be used as a kind of political propaganda. This year’s Met Gala saw a similar occurrence.
The Met Gala red carpet is without a doubt one of the most important stages one can be on, and it is unquestionably a place to express one’s views and opinions for the rest of the world to absorb. The Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has evolved into the Oscars and the Olympics of the fashion industry. Usually the Met Gala’s red carpet is filled with eye-catching couture, but this year a number of celebrities attended the event and made significant political remarks. It also marked the commencement of the institute’s annual major exhibit. This year’s edition of In America: A Lexicon of Fashion is more blatantly political than normal. The Met Gala is an opportunity that several people took use of this year, expressing messages about wealth inequity and feminism as well as about animal rights and sexuality among other topics. Celebrities at the Met Gala this year used fashion to make overt comments about their advocacy. If there was ever a moment to do it, it is now.
In a bespoke ivory wool jacket dress by Brother Vellies with an organza flounce and a crimson “Tax the Rich” slogan printed across her back, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared at the Met Gala. Her outfit was about having a genuine dialogue about justice and equality in the system, and she emphasised how it linked to the budget reconciliation bill debate. In some respects, her forthright approach was effective in drawing attention to her calls for progressive taxes and social expenditures. The colour white was chosen to reflect the longstanding history of American congresswomen donning it in relation to the women’s suffrage struggle. Among the Democratic Party’s and the US House of Representatives’ most progressive voices, AOC has been a vociferous supporter of increased taxation to fund the new green agreement. The attire soon sparked outrage on social media, with many criticising the representative for attending an event associated with the 1%. Those detractors, though, were silenced by Ocasio-Cortez.
Hasan Piker, the well American Twitch streamer and left-wing political pundit, donned a black costume that said “Make the Rich Pay,” with the A written in the peace sign, to make a similar remark to AOC’s.
This year, New York Representative Carolyn Maloney made a statement on the red carpet of the Met Gala 2021 by dressing in purple, white, and gold with sashes embroided with “equal rights for women” inscribed on them. She also carried a bag labelled “ERA YES,” a support of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which would add a section to the United States Constitution forbidding discrimination on the basis of gender. The amendment, which would expressly guarantee women constitutional equal rights, is still to be officially enacted, over 100 years after Republican Alice Paul originally proposed it. She definitely used fashion as a force for change.
Cara Delevingne continues to make a statement, as seen by her choice of a white bulletproof vest printed with the slogan “Peg the Patriarchy,” created by Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri. The model stated that it was time to remove the outdated and sexist structures that stifle women’s progress in fashion and beyond.
Billie’s outfit represents her animal rights advocacy. Billie Eilish’s Oscar de la Renta gown evoked Old Hollywood glamour and was a tribute to Holiday Barbie, but as Eilish disclosed on social media, she also picked the design brand because it has pledged not to use fur. Billie Eilish, a vegan and animal rights activist, consented to don the Oscar de la Renta gown only provided the business ceased using fur—a dispute that has allegedly been going on for years within the company.
Dan Levy walked the red carpet in a pastel blue, pink, and green ensemble with dramatic puffed sleeves, a world map pattern, beading, and a hand-embroidered image of a queer couple kissing in the middle of his chest, a depiction that serves as a tribute to American multimedia artists and LGBTQ activist David Wojnarovicz, who died in 1992. Levy collaborated with Anderson to design a costume that highlighted the LGBT+ community’s strength, love, and joy.
Nikkie de Jager, a makeup artist and YouTube creator, was among the numerous LGBTQ celebrities that walked the Met Gala red carpet this year to commemorate activist Marsha P Johnson. Edwin Oudshoorn’s aquamarine tulle gown with floral embellishments was worn by her. ” Pay it no mind” was inscribed on the train of her gown in Johnson’s famous phrase. “Pay it no mind,”is the phrase Johnson is said to have said to anyone who challenged her gender or manner of life. Her advocacy and front-line service in New York’s LGBTQ community earned her the moniker “The Saint of Christopher Street.”
On the red carpet, Ben Platt said that his “very American” denim-on-denim ensemble, designed by LGBT designer Christian Cowan, was supposed to depict a “gay cowboy dream” with hints of Studio 54, the legendary ’70s club.
Elliot Page, who came out publicly as a transgender in late 2020, wore a black-and-white Balenciaga suit on the red carpet. Page accessorised the outfit with a lime-green carnation. Many speculated that the boutonniere was a nod to Irish author Oscar Wilde, who was imprisoned in 1895 for homosexuality. In 1892, Wilde advised a few acquaintances to wear green carnations on their lapels for the opening night of his latest play, and the flower quickly became a “secret, subtle indication that you were a guy who liked other men”.
Versha Sharma, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, attended her first Met Gala wearing a handmade handbag that stated, “Protect Roe; kill the filibuster.” It was in reaction to a new Texas statute that was approved by the state’s Supreme Court, which permits a relatively close ban on abortion to go into force, and constitutes the most severe challenge yet to the court’s historic 1973 Roe v. Wade judgement.
Poet and activist Amanda Gorman, who is the Met Gala 2021 co-chair, donned a blue Vera Wang gown inspired by the Statue of Liberty. She was carrying a clutch with the words ‘Give Us Your Tired,’ a poem by Emma Lazarus that was engraved on the memorial.
Megan Rapinoe, a soccer star, looked patriotic in red and blue, but her favourite accessory was a clutch with the words “In Gay We Trust” emblazoned across the top.
One can admire the effort taken here to bring societally significant messages, or even just funny and subversive phrases, to such a high-profile event as the Met Gala. Whether you like it or not, the star-studded affair garners international attention and may generate a variety of discussions. Fashion can be an empowering form of expression, and the present debate appears to be just getting started.
– Uttara Jantwal
Picture Credits: CHARLES SYKES/INVISION/AP