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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Commentary: The dystopian air of the Met Gala

This year’s grandiose event disappointed, with a historical theme eerily reflecting today’s realities


By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org


There are many ironic — or even paradoxical — levels to this annual ball. All the most beautiful, wealthy and powerful people in the country gather together in outfits that often cost more than your college tuition to party, be beautiful and flaunt their riches to the world, while the rest of us live in reality. 

The 2022 Met Gala was a particularly interesting experience. The event, which was themed “gilded glamor” in reference to the historical Gilded Age, coincided with a leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision to repeal Roe v. Wade (taking us back in time in a horrifying way). It’s an odd time to gawk at perfect celebrities and their lives of luxury — but is that small form of escapism okay? Unfortunately, the jury is still out on that one. 

During last year’s rescheduled gala in September, we saw the heights of empty and cringe-worthy celebrity “activism,” from Cara Delevigne’s now infamous ‘peg the patriarchy’ corset, to New York state representative Carolyn B. Maloney’s dated suffragette costume. While these celebrities (and some politicians) wined and dined at the “party of the year,” Black Lives Matter protesters were arrested just a block or two away. These protesters were calling attention to the $11 billion granted to the already well-funded NYPD, while many residents of the city were struggling to afford food and adequate housing. 

This situation made clear the similarities between the Met Gala and the extravagance of the Capitol from the dystopian young adult series, “The Hunger Games.” After last year’s Met Gala left such a rotten taste in my mouth, this year’s Gilded Age theme felt all too pertinent. If you aren’t familiar, this was a period in American history characterized by “gross materialism and blatant political corruption” from about 1870 to the beginning of the 20th century. And for just a little bit of icing on this dreadful cake, it has been noted that the wealth gap in the U.S. is almost as big as it was during the Gilded Age

Besides this uncanny feeling of history repeating itself, this year’s theme brought quite a bit of excitement for the possibility of seeing pretty and frilly dresses, corsets and updos — it’s always important to see the positive side of things.

I hold the belief that everyone part of the 99% has the right to judge any Met Gala look worn by the uppermost crust of society — if we have to be annually reminded of our regular lives by this grandiose ball, we should at least get to pretend we have some power and roleplay as fashion critics. I mention this justification of tearing celebrity style to shreds on this iconic red carpet because the 2022 Met Gala was quite the year for judgements. Hardly anyone was on theme. It was atrocious (or exciting, depending on how you look at it). 

Besides most of the men in attendance simply donning a black suit — or if they were feeling really risky, opting for a double-breasted blazer in a color other than black — many of the dresses barely even merited a second glance. I could probably count the amount of corsets worn on my hands: this is far too low a number of corsets! There was an astonishingly high amount of Golden Globe-level dresses on the red carpet — meaning they were just about six steps above a prom dress. Without naming (too many) names, I can say there were far too many celebrities who made the conscious choice to completely ignore every aspect of the theme. 

Just to list the biggest offenders of this heinous crime, there was Camila Cabello in a weird arts-and-craft two-piece prom dress and almost the entire Kardashian family in Iris Van Herpen. We can technically exclude Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner, who at least took the theme into consideration. There were countless other bad looks that night. I’m trying to be “less of a hater,” so I’ll keep those judgments to myself and turn to some of the pleasing looks.

Every official article on the best dressed from this year’s gala puts Blake Lively (and Ryan Reynolds in a boring suit) as the top look of the night… but just because there’s a concept aligning with the theme doesn’t mean it’s great — this Statue of Liberty inspired dress was fine, that’s all I’ll say. Comparatively, Lizzo’s extravagance, Kaia Gerber’s intricacy, Billie Eilish’s adherence to the theme and Paloma Elsesser’s minimalist corset and lace look restored my faith in the ultra-wealthy’s ability to hire a good stylist. 

Thank you to Evan Mock and Ben Platt for their dedication to the theme while looking pretty adorable. Again, I have a bone to pick with all the men who still wear a boring suit to the Met Gala of all places — I wholeheartedly believe they should not be allowed on the carpet dressed so plainly. While it wasn’t the most eye-catching look of the night, Riz Ahmed had a particularly poignant take on the theme, paying homage to the working class that built this country (and its gilded ages), which I much prefer to a corny red phrase on a white garment. 


Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org



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