Here Are The Best Looks From The Met Gala — And The Messages Behind Them

Sep 14, 2021
Originally published on September 14, 2021 9:49 am
These Chucks were made for walking: Timothée Chalamet filmed himself on Instagram Live hoofing it to the Met Gala, sporting an all-white Haider Ackermann suit and high-top Converse.
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for The Met Museum

Updated September 14, 2021 at 8:08 AM ET

After the pandemic shut down fashion's biggest night in 2020, the Met Gala came back on Monday night — albeit a smaller event than years past, and postponed from its typical May date.

Coming off the end of New York Fashion Week, the gala marked the opening of "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion," this year's exhibition by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show, the first of two installations at the Met celebrating American fashion, opens to the public on Sept. 18 and coincides with the institute's 75th anniversary.

The soiree has been a welcome celebration for the fashion industry, after the pandemic wreaked havoc on companies' finances and shuttered important money-making events like in-person fashion shows. To mark the occasion, the fashion, film, television and sports worlds showed up in their best interpretations of the event's formal dress code: "American Independence." Among those walking the red carpet were the event's co-hosts, some of the most recognizable stars today: Billie Eilish, Naomi Osaka, Timothée Chalamet and Amanda Gorman.

The fashion was not without statements. Here are some of the celebrities who sought to make a point with their looks:

Eilish uncharacteristically appeared in an Oscar de la Renta ball gown — with conditions. At her urging, the brand will stop all fur sales, The New York Times reports (Eilish is a vegan and animal rights activist).

Co-chair Billie Eilish wears an Oscar de la Renta gown with a 15-foot train.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images

For Osaka, "American Independence" meant honoring her Haitian and Japanese heritage. Osaka's sister, Mari, helped design the dress, including its Koi fish-inspired print. Mari tells Vogue, "It's a celebration of cultures, like America itself, a melting pot of so many special and unique elements."

Rapper Saweetie nodded to her own background with trailing panels evoking the Filipino and Black American heritage flags. Together, she said, they are what make her an "American girl."

Saweetie told red carpet host Keke Palmer that her Christian Cowan caped dress is inspired by the Black American heritage flag and the Filipino flag.
Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe opted for the more overt red, white and blue — but with a clutch that read "In Gay We Trust." Designer Sergio Hudson, who famously dressed former first lady Michelle Obama for President Biden's inauguration and is known for making powerful women look even more fierce, set Rapinoe up with the "one of a kind, American vibe."

U.S. soccer player Megan Rapinoe holds up her bag at the entrance to the Met Gala.
Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., arrives with designer Aurora James.
Mike Coppola / Getty Images

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in case you didn't know, wants to tax the rich — words emblazoned in red on the back of her white gown from designer and activist Aurora James.

Director Ava DuVernay interpreted the theme as an "homage to 'Black Excellence.' ... From our survival to our joy and everything in between." She wore an all-black Prada gown with sparkling sleeves.

Indigenous model and activist Quannah Chasinghorse stunned in a gold lamé gown from Peter Dundas' collection with Revolve, Navajo jewelry and her traditional face tattoos.

The 19-year-old is garnering praise across the Internet for "understanding the assignment," as some lamented that not a single Native designer was represented at the Americana-themed gala.

To comply with COVID-19 safety protocols, all attendees were required to show proof of full vaccination, submit a negative rapid PCR test result before the event and remain masked except when eating or drinking. That ruled out some high-profile folks from attending — including Nicki Minaj, who tweeted that if she gets vaccinated, "it won't [be] for the Met. It'll be once I feel I've done enough research." (The research is in — and the vaccines are powerfully protective.)

Next year's gala is scheduled to happen right on time — May 2, 2022, to mark the May 5 opening of the second Met installation about American fashion, titled In America: An Anthology of Fashion. For now, here are some of our favorite looks from this evening, as well as answers to that age-old question: Who are they wearing?

Lil Nas X dons not one, not two, but three looks, worn in layers custom-designed by Donatella Versace: a regal cape, a gold suit of armor, and a slinky bodysuit studded with crystals.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue ; Theo Wargo/Getty Images ; Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Frank Ocean, wearing a Prada suit jacket, carries a ... green robot-puppet-doll? A baby Shrek? We're just as confused as y'all are.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
The Brooklyn United Marching Band, a group of young musicians ranging from ages 5 to 21, performs at the opening of the Met Gala.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
Singer Rihanna and rapper A$AP Rocky arrive fashionably late for the Met Gala.
Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
From left to right: Actor-director Dan Levy in a Loewe outfit inspired by the U.S. artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz; actor Evan Mock in Thom Browne; model Iman in Harris Reed; model Anok Yai
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue ; Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Grimes describes her Iris van Herpen gown, dubbed the "Bene Gesserit" dress, as "Dune-esque." She accompanied the look with a face mask borrowed from the Dune film set and a medieval-style sword.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
Simone Biles wears an Area showgirl dress.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
Jeremy O. Harris, wearing a Tommy Hilfiger jacket and zoot-suit-esque pants inspired by one of his favorite Aaliyah outfits: a "yellow, sailing bomber jacket thing."
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney sports a look promoting the Equal Rights Amendment; co-chair Naomi Osaka wears a Nicolas Ghesquière for Louis Vuitton suit; Kris Jenner carries a ball-and-chain bag.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue ; Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Helen Lasichanh and American musician and producer Pharrell Williams in a cowboy inspired outfit by Channel.
Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez wears a David Koma dress with a cowboy hat.
Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images for The Met Museum
Brazilian model-actress Valentina Sampaio flashes the wings of her dress.
Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images

NPR reporter Rachel Treisman contributed to this story.

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