For model and Indigenous activist Quannah Chasinghorse, the gala’s theme of “American independence” was an opportunity to remind everyone of the long-standing history of Indigenous cultures prior to settlers’ colonization of the continents. Amidst a troop of red, white, blue, and star-spangled gowns, Chasinghorse stood out, embracing her Hän Gwich’in (Alaska and Canada) and Oglala Lakota (South Dakota) identity. With traditional Hän Gwich’in face tattoos, turquoise Navajo jewelry, and a dazzling golden dress, Chasinghorse’s look was stunning and poignant. Many people on social media commented that she “understood the assignment,” and I couldn’t agree more. Chasinghorse sent a powerful reminder that Indigenous cultures have been, and always will be, the original “American” fashion. Hopefully, Chasinghorse’s Met Gala debut is only the beginning of her fashion revolution.
From her politics to her Twitter account, U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has maintained a consistent message over the year: Tax the rich. The politician, more commonly known as A.O.C., took this stance a step further at the 2021 Met Gala, donning a white floor-length gown with those three words emblazoned in scarlet across the dress’ back. A matching bag with the slogan written in silver accentuated the bold dress, just in case you missed it the first time. Though some have criticized the politician for sporting the message while choosing to attend an event synonymous with opulence, A.O.C. firmly defended both her look and her presence at the gala.
“Ultimately the haters hated,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram story from September 14. “But we all had a conversation about taxing the rich in front of the very people who lobby against it.”
Whether an indictment of the upper class or an empty, hypocritical comment, the dress and its message were perfectly on-theme for a country whose fashion industry has consistently catered to the rich.
Ciara donned a sparkling neon-green, floor-length dress, reminiscent of a football jersey, to the event. On the surface, it appeared to be a tribute to American Football, but upon a closer look, it also referenced American designer Geoffrey Beene’s fall/winter 1967-68 collection. Ciara’s custom dress was designed by Norwegian designer Peter Dundas, who updated Beene’s original look by fitting it, adding a short train, and including cutouts at the waist. As a personalized touch, the dress nods to Ciara’s husband, Russell Wilson, a quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, through its eye-catching neon-green colourway, and the number three—Russell’s jersey number. Ciara’s look fit the theme to perfection.
Canadian music sensation and McGill alumna, Grimes, raised the phrase “slaying the red carpet” to a whole new level this year as she brandished a sword to accessorize a sci-fi-warrior look designed by Iris Van Herpen. Grimes, an experimental musician, was inspired by David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of Dune—a seminal novel by American author Frank Herbert. Sporting intricate space-age detailing, a silver capsule crystal ring, an anti-gravity ponytail, and a sword borrowed from the Met’s permanent collection, Grimes’ look packed an ethereal punch—par for the course for the genre petitioner. The sword, based on a Western European weapon from the end of the Middle Ages, was melted down from an AR-15; and what’s more American than that?