IN AMERICA: A LEXICON OF FASHION
Boxer Shorts, Bare Skin, and Hairy Armpits.
The 2021 Met Gala is a Mess of Mixed Messages
by Pearl Lustre
Back after a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, the Met Gala 2021 was held on September 13, at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The annual event is the main source of funding for the Met’s Costume Institute, which became a curatorial department of the museum in 1959. Today the collection is comprised of more than 35,000 costumes and accessories. The Costume Institute’s extremely popular and exclusive annual Benefit Gala was first co-hosted by Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in 2007.
ONCE UPON A TIME, a long time ago, I worked at Vogue Magazine in New York City. Back then, the epitome of high fashion meant elegant simplicity, functionality, and enough understatement to allow the wearer, not the clothing, to shine—assuming, of course, she wore good makeup. Alas, the only thing that stays the same is change and my, oh, my how fashion has changed since Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, among others, set the standard in fashion.
Today to be fashionable is to be sensationalist. Couture today is designed to stun, grab attention, and leave you gasping. Some designers use and abuse fashion as a ploy to make a political or rights activist statement—such as fashion designer Brother Vellies who dressed the self-proclaimed “socialist” Democratic congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maskless and oblivious to the Black Lives Matter protest she walked past to make her big entrance on the Met’s grand staircase, her white dress was studded in red sequins that spelled out “Tax the Rich” on her backside. “Powerful or hypocritical?” blared USA Today and other national headlines of the dress that purportedly cost her at least $30,000 on top of the $35,000 she would (or should) have paid for her Gala ticket.
This was just one of the mess of mixed messages that resonated at the 2021 Met Gala, themed “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” A few thoughtful fashionistas embraced the theme but most, like AOC, didn’t even have a clue.
THE GALA HERALDED THE OPENING of the new exhibition at the Costume Institute called “The Best of American Fashion,” Part 1, celebrating the core of America’s established elite. Part 2, coming in May 2022, forecasts the future of American fashion with a patchwork of 70 up-and-coming American designers who view fashion as “sustainable, fearless, and fun,” according to Vogue’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. “They are all friends, know each other, spend time together…this is a hopeful time for the future of American fashion,” she explained. This said, Wintour chose to wear an English garden party frock in springtime colors designed by the couture house of the late Dominican designer, Oscar de la Renta. The chintz floral fabric would make delightful drapes for a country house drawing room.
Rihanna was completely swathed in black Balenciaga Couture and diamond-studded Maria Tash jewelry while her escort, A$AP Rocky, wore what appeared to be his grandmother’s bedroom quilt. Both were all set to settle in for a long winter’s night.
You can always look to Chanel for the finest in haute couture—until now. The legendary Paris design house dressed Helen Lasichanh and her husband, rapper Pharrel Williams in matching black Texas cowboy outfits trimmed in white welting, complete with string ties and steel-toe boots. Also in Chanel was actress Margaret Qualley wearing a virgin white gown that resembled a Victorian nightdress and probably could be worn as such. Lily-Rose Depp, daughter of Johnny, also wore Chanel—hers, in the atelier’s trademark colors pink, white, and black. The low-slung, hip-hugging skirt reminded me of Dorothy Lamour’s sarong in the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope “Road To…” films and the bathing suit top left the midriff bare. Coco must be turning in her grave…
They’re Not Just For Men Anymore
Indya Moore wore white Yves Saint Laurent boxer shorts. Most disappointing of all, however, was the Vera Wang designed and worn: black satin boxer shorts, spandex stockings, platform boots only a robot could love, and a white sheet (from her bedlinens collection?) tucked under a barely-there black bandeau that might also be worn as a headband. Also in Vera Wang was Emily Ratajkowski in a flaming red gown much more in keeping with the flourish and elegance we associate with the designer, but that too, disappointed, with a red ruffle on Emily’s neck that resembled a goiter.
But it was Michael Kors, a prince of elegant understatement, who dressed Italian model Vittoria Ceretti in a gold lame gown, stunning in its simplicity. Kors himself accompanied American actress and director Regina King who wore, in my humble opinion, the most elegant ensemble of the evening: a sleeveless, deeply slit pencil gown under a floor-length coat, both in a remarkable cloth (reminiscent of a three-piece, Brooks Brothers banker’s suit) of navy and with thin gold stripes, flecked overall with gold, and a spectacular matching coat magnificently lined in solid gold lame fabric. Classy, all the way.
Kate Hudson—who announced yesterday that she was engaged to musician Danny Fujikawa, father of their three-year-old daughter, also wore Michael Kors and though the bra top and bare midriff nearly got a strike by this writer, the ostrich plume coat and pencil skirt in a cotton candy pink—and the fact that Kate’s a California girl—made the ensemble work beautifully—as, of course, did the diamonds.
WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
Then there were the “Emperor’s New Clothes” creations that left the body more naked than covered—a look, tragically, chosen by too many designers that evening. Zoë Kravits was barely there in Saint Laurent and Olivia Rodrigo (left, bottom) wore a black lace bodysuit with an ostrich stole. Kendall Jenner, below, wore Givenchy—or maybe it’s more correct to say Givenchy wore Kendall Jenner. This ain’t fashion, honey. This is pure sensationalism—but that’s the foundation the Jenner-Kardashian family empire is successfully built on. And no one does it other than Kendall’s half-sister, Kim.
Kim Kardashian as the Grim Reaper?
The arrival of the Grim Reaper! This shocking Balenciaga creation covered Kim Kardashian, above, from the top of her head to the tip of her toe. How she could see, let alone breathe, who can say. But the effect was like a joke with no punch line. It simply made no sense at all—unless, of course, Kim wanted to attract attention…
Singer/songwriter Erykah Badu came in a disturbingly close second, wearing Thom Browne and carrying a machine gun bag.
CLASSIC CLASSY COUTURE
Ravishing is the word to describe Gigi Hadid in Prada. The black and white statement evoked Audrey Hepburn clothed by the late Hubert de Givenchy for her signature film, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The young mother wore black and white slingback heels, opera-length black gloves and black stocking. This, my dears, is what the Met Gala should have been all about.
Several fashionistas wore Ralph Lauren that night, but none was as dramatic or as captivating as Jennifer Lopez, who wore the only ensemble that truly embraced the theme of the evening—America—in Lauren’s homage to the Old West.
Venus Williams was a goddess in Prabal Gurung while her sister, Serena, in Gucci, was off her game.
Venus Williams was one of the evening’s most beautiful women. She wore Prabal Gurung in what seemed to be the color of the night, blazing red, and she looked stunning. This is what fashion is all about. Elegant, simple, thoughtful line, and grace–truly one of my most favorite looks of the evening, with its exaggerated flounced top over a sheath floor-length skirt and magnificent long—but not-too-long—train. Her hairstyle and makeup topped off the look to perfection; indeed, Venus truly looked like a like a Greek goddess.
Simone Biles triumphed over tragedy at the Olympics but failed to score in the unflattering AREA gown she wore to the Gala. Her petite, beautifully toned body was entirely hidden by an 88-lb. train draped over a totally unflattering Louis XIV-style bustle, Frankenstein shoes, and snowflake pattern turtleneck and leggings that could have come out of an Eddie Bauer catalog. No fashion medal for our favorite 2021 Olympian, I’m afraid.
The beautiful Lupita Nyongo’o wore and elegant Versace an unusual, edging, utterly spectacular pairing of cornflower blue denim and black lame with a pleated train and flounce at the hips. Her wildly billowing hair set off one of the most distinctive and successful gowns of the evening.
No this was not a costume by Disney for Aladdin. Nor did Lourdes Leon’s fushia Moschino ensemble by Jeremy Scott get the attention. Madonna’s daughter proudly flaunted her unshaved armpits.
One of the most successful gowns of the evening was worn by Megan Fox. Her ruby red, long-train, long-sleeve gown laced up from the waist and up the sides and was beautifully but sparingly accessorized, and finished off with ankle strap sandals, perfect makeup and a simply elegant hair.
TWO QUEENS OF SONG MADE GRAND ENTRANCES
Mary J. Blige, 50, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, wore a gently draped gold lame gown by Dundas, was truly splendid—as was her version of the national anthem that kicked off Monday night football last night. She wore metallic gold-heeled Casadei sandals
Jennifer Hudson was extraordinary in a mermaid, curve-clinging maraschino cherry red AZ Factory with matching long-train coat. Her makeup, by celebrity makeup artist Ernesto Casillas, used skincare products from QMS Medicocosmetics and Bobbi Brown cosmetics to complete. A clawlike manicure was an accessory unto itself.
The surprise showstopper of the evening was American soulful songstress Billie Eilish, transformed by a magnificent in Oscar de la Renta peach tulle gown in a look that evoked a young Marilyn Monroe. Voted one of Time Magazines 100 Most Influential People of 2021, Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, the 19-year-old vegan and animal rights activist achieved something no one has ever done before. She made a deal. She agreed to wear this glorious Oscar concoction if the iconic fashion house agreed to stop selling fur. She did, and they did.