American Fashion, WHERE?!: A Roast and Review of the 2021 MET Gala

The celebrities showed up, but the theme didn't.

Due to the global pandemic, fashion night out had to be moved from the First Monday in May to this last Monday in September. This year's theme was In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” I wasn't able to watch the Red Carpet, but I did follow live tweets from Vogue. I was excited to see how the theme would be executed, but upon review of the red carpet (I saw all of them here), I was disappointed in the lack of general consensus amongst the looks. As a designer, I would have been over the moon to create a look for this theme! My first "design" experiences was creating looks for themed parties and school events. I was expecting nostalgic Americana, denim, stars n' stripes, cowboy hats, red, white, and blue, rock and roll, and a few deep political statements. We got some of this but I wanted to see more. I understand that fashion is expressive and up for interpretation, but I was completely confused by the majority of the things I saw. Not Amanda Gorman's look though, she understood the assignment!!


Amanda Gorman in Vera Wang (from vogue.com)

I am not here to discuss who was best dressed or had the most creative or "on-theme" outfit. I am here to discuss American Fashion and what it means to me, and what themes could have and should have been explored by attendees. upon viewing the red carpet event, one of my friends posted a couple questions to her instagram story. She asked why were there so few American designers represented and why so few people knew about American Design and what it means to them.


Personally, I think more American designers and labels should have been represented on the red carpet. The theme is America, so shouldn't we try to utilize the people who live in the place that inspired the theme? I know some American designers design for international labels, so that is a welcome "exception".


Frank Ocean in Prada x Homer (vogue.com)

Let's start with American design. We already know that America was founded in 1776, when fashion and the way people were wearing their clothes had began to modernize significantly. Yes, women were still wearing corsets and men wore something similar to a 3 piece suit, but it was nothing like the courts of the European countries they had just liberated themselves from. The wealthiest Americans could afford to get custom made garments, or import fine things from Europe, but the average American dressed for work, comfort and functionality, not a royal court. As our nation grew, people began to "explore", which further proved the necessity for casual, comfortable clothing. I know I am ignoring a lot of history here, but this is extremely generalized. So what I am trying to say here is that the basis for american fashion is casual, but functional attire. We were so busy "building" a nation, we seem to have forgotten to make ateliers' in the process.

Kim Kardashian in Balenciaga (vogue.com)

American Fashion Designers, as a whole, do not specialize in couture which is the prefered attire of the Met Gala. Yes, some make nice dresses and out-there-evening wear, (Vera Wang, Christian Siriano, and Marc Jacobs, I'm looking at you.) but it's not as artistic and steeped in tradition as some international designers. However, I think my friend's question was also asking for a new generation of American Designers. For so long, we (Americans) have been represented as the leisure and casual wear fashion. We pioneered the look and do it well but, there is couture in America. I think many of these celebrities choose to ignore it for some of the more established couturiers like Commes de Garcon, Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Chanel, and so on. America is full of creative designers who need to get in the spotlight. We've got more than just Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Couture is all about artistry, establishment, and refined taste, while American fashion is about freedom, relaxation, and dreaming. If the two were to be paired, I think a real fashion revolution would begin.


Billie Eilish in Oscar de la Renta (vogue.com)

As far as the celebrities talking about American Fashion, I don't really know what was said on the because I didn't watch it. people have got to do better. That should have been rehearsed and researched. They have coaches for this, people who can do research for them or they could do their own research. For my Apparel Design 3 class, I had to do a whole essay on American Sportswear & Design. So as an ex-fashion design student, American Fashion is all about comfort, freedom, diversity, and dreams. We pioneered the look of leisure, we are a country of dreamers, and our nationwide diversity allows different groups of people to come together and create something truly special.


Here's hoping that Part 2 of the MET Costume Institute's In America series is better represented on the red carpet.


Wannabe MET Gala Designer,

Natalie D.