MET Forecast: American Portions, Wicked but Wired

MET Forecast: American Portions, Wicked but Wired

Met Gala 2021 themed around American lexicon, this year’s most awaited fashion party wore an audacious anxiety. Big, bold, loud, shiny and unmistakably hyper

It may be fashion’s biggest preen party but make no mistake. The “returned” Met Gala—pushed from one year to another and finally held yesterday (September 13) at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York —represented the “lexicon of American fashion” as its 2021 theme mandated. However, if it spoke for fashion universally, let’s just begin by saying that glamming up, showing up and showing off seem to have become a nervy, edgy game. An uneven playground. A far cry, really, from the some-discreet-some clever-some audacious-some spectacular glam pile up at Met Gala in the years gone by. When Hollywood celebrities and fashion’s A-listers and designers would arrive wearing themselves on their sleeves, fashioning their relevance with individualistic imagination, styling their personalities and their chutzpah, and accessories these with stunning clothes.



Kim Kardashian in Balencianga.

Now, the coin seems to have flipped tails up. Glamour on the Met’s beige carpet effortlessly took to the effortful. It preferred fashion to “costume”, making the cliché a cassata. For a theme as intelligently complex as “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which made possible a memorable nod to mixed cultures and intersectional fashion currents, it was dominated instead by loudness, bigness, bling and bustle to make a point.

It overdid itself to announce its freedom from the captivity of the pandemic-forced digital existence and turned the idea of American style into an alloy instead of pure metal. It poached OTT—the term—from our Watch sections. Now Over the Top or OTT fashion is not just a Met Gala affliction, but a “trend”. Something that more people favour than less. Trends make fashion easier even identifiable, but they push away personal imagination.

Of course, in the past too, the size of a costume has historically been a way to overpower the red carpet—Lady Gaga (2019 in a big, fat pink Brandon Maxwell dress), Cardi B (also in 2019, with five tuxedoed men carrying her ruby Moschino gown, and the unforgettable ruby nipples), Priyanka Chopra Jonas (2018 in a Ralph Lauren trench train cape) or Rihanna (in 2015 in an ornate ochre fur-trimmed gown by Chinese couturier Guo Pei) are just some examples.



Iman in Reed Harris.

Now Big is ubiquitous, not a shocker.

Trailing layered gowns, very big dresses, too long trains, bombs of bling, gold rush, head to toe diamonds, three-in-one looks, swathes of fabric, miles of lace, yards of satin, days of seaming, thousands of crystals, hyper hairdos, is the all too apparent styling mantra.

Fraught and wired making fashion so visibly anxious. It reveals an anxiety to escape and quickly reclaim preening, posturing, glamming, gleaming, and competing which the pandemic had trimmed down.

If singer-songwriter Billie Eilish ditched her androgynous oversized, anti-fit clothes for a peach Oscar de la Renta trailing prudently behind her Marilyn Monroe mirroring, model Iman wore a multi-tiered gown and matching headpiece—gold over gold, halo over halo by Harris Reed. Pop star and diva Rihanna wore a black Balenciaga beanie and coat with dozens of diamond jewellery pieces and a dazzling fitted dress inside while her partner ASAP Rocky wore a multi-hued quilt. American rapper Lil Nas X changed his Versace outfits thrice—cape, armour, body suit—all blingy and clingy. Get the point? Just one year of confinement behind digital devices has given a gold complex to fashioning costumes.



Lil Nas X in Versace.

And that’s hardly all. Hollywood biggie Lupita Nyong’o gave denim a blue and bold spike with her Versace gown but did not duck the unofficial theme of Big Arrivals with her hairdo. Dan Levy, the dandy from Schitt’s Creek wore roses, maps, same sex kisses in a multimedia themed dress by Loewe with large puffed sleeves. Large. Gymnast Simone Biles, looking decidedly unsettled on her chunky, black, high shoes ramped up in a 98-pound gown designed by Area in collaboration with Athleta (a sportswear brand owned by Gap Inc). Not to be left behind was the princess of bold statements and the ultimate athlete of tennis style, Naomi Osaka. She wore a Louis Vuitton (of which she is also brand ambassador) corseted dress made of graphic jacquard with a silk cape made of 22 ruffles, 18mt of leather satin and 15mt of silk hem—a collaborative design between her sister Mari, LV creative director Nicolas Ghesquiere and herself.



Dan Levy in Jonathan Anderson.

There were many other instances—sisters Venus and Serena Williams and Alicia Keys included. Collectively, this Big Army eclipsed some good glamour and sex appeal that can become breathless under mounds of fabric and crystals. Like model Kaia Gerber in a Bianca Jagger inspired look by Oscar de la Renta, designer Jeremy Scott in a black casual jacket and trousers with a multi-coloured necklace, designer Tory Burch in her own white and black design and the shirtless Shawn Mendes with a satin leather blazer left front open. Check out those abs if you love doing ab crunches.

And yet—not Eclipsed, not Big, not Bold, Lavish or Blingy were two looks. One in black, the other in white—fashion’s inescapable binary. Model and actor Cara Delevingne in a custom white Dior top that said “Peg the Patriarchy” in red worn with fitted trousers and sky high stilettoes. And Kim Kardarshian, irrepressibly noticeable because she made herself disappear in a head head-to-toe, black outfit that layered her face and physique. It hid the skin and glint that mints her celebrity but let the shape of her risqué style tendencies remain obvious. Mystery, aura and a custom Balenciaga by Demna Gvasalia that can never be copied.

An interpretation of the American lexicon in fashion like none other.

Banner: Billie Eilish in Oscar de la Renta. Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP