In America: A Lexicon of Fashion?

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The long-awaited 2021 Met Gala has come and gone — In America: A Lexicon of Fashion was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking a hiatus from its normal date of the first Monday of May, the Met Gala was held on September 13, and naturally, the internet had plenty to say about this year’s theme.

While there is no denying some of this year’s Met’s guests served some serious looks, it would’ve been nearly impossible to pinpoint this year’s theme had you not already known what it was. With no clear-cut guidelines or a specific style to stick to, some things got lost in translation. Why was it, though, that there was almost no cohesion across attendees’ looks, especially compared to past years’ themes? The enigma that is American fashion itself.

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What is American Fashion?

When you think of American fashion or style, what comes to mind first? Blue jeans or denim? Street style? Athleisure? Old Hollywood? While there were certainly nods to these things at this year’s Met, they weren’t done across the board. This year’s them seemed a little too vague, and received criticism for its lack of instruction — American fashion is also an unclear concept, especially for a ball like the Met.

There were also many nods to American politics at this year’s Met Ball — from AOC in her statement white dress to Carolyn B. Maloney’s gown reading “rights for women.” Stars like Cara Delevingne and Dan Levy also took this year’s American theme to get political, with outfits reading “peg the patriarchy” and a concept piece advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, respectfully.

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America isn’t what we think of when we think of haute couture — we think of designers and brands from different countries (namely in Europe) who have long since established their position in fashion. Americans dress far more casually than residents of other countries, so there wasn’t a clear vision for what an American black-tie dress code would look like.

America is also such a large, culturally diverse country that it’s difficult to pinpoint just one particular style or aesthetic to label “American.” Smaller countries like France or Italy have more distinct styles that are just effortlessly and obviously French or Italian, whereas America is just so different at its very core that you can’t possibly find one style to categorize as American.

Men’s Fashion

While male guests Pete Davidson, Shawn Mendes, Dan Levy and Lil Nas X certainly pulled out all the stops for this year’s ball, many of the other male attendees stuck with a classic black suit.

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It’s also important to note that male front-runners such as Harry Styles, Jared Leto and Billy Porter were not in attendance at this year’s Met Gala — and that VALLEY certainly missed their usual commitment to Met looks.

A Lack of Representation — Stylists and Stars

There are very few “great American designers” who specialize in couture (spare Zac Posen, Vera Wang Tom Ford — none of which were well-represented on the red carpet). Very few of America’s best-known designers were even represented at this year’s Met Gala, which may be why you felt that the styles on this year’s carpet weren’t thoroughly represented. This has everything to do with the way designers are invited to and have tables reserved at the Met Gala — certain designers are invited to the Met and to style celebrities, so guests don’t typically always have say over who they wear.

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Many Met Gala favs were also noticeably absent from this year’s fundraiser. Seasoned showstoppers such as Blake Lively, Beyoncé, Zendaya, Bella Hadid, Lady Gaga, Kylie Jenner, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicki Minaj were not in attendance on September 13, all for various reasons.

VALLEY can only wonder what some of our usual roundup of Met Ball favorites might have worn this year had they been in attendance, but can not help but notice the red carpet was lacking its typical guest list.

Did you think this year’s Met missed the mark? Did some of your favs stunt on the Met carpet?

Tweet us, @VALLEYmag, and let us know what you think!


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