The Met Gala: The Charity Event Turned to a Celeb Circus
Who won the reputation game?
The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute’s annual ball, also known as The Met Gala, is considered to be the biggest black-tie event of the year. Every first Monday of May, the Met brings together the most intricate guest list full of A-list celebrities where they team up with their preferred fashion house to wear their own interpretation of the year’s theme. The Gala was originally created as a fundraising event and as time has gone by, it has lost more of its original meaning and has turned into a luxury social where celebrities show off their wealth and status to the media, meaning it plays a central role in celebrity image-making. Costumiers push for more and more garish creations; publicists agonise over whether a big statement will land. It’s a high-stakes game, and with no guarantees of how the amateur critics of the Twittersphere will react, its one that can make or break fledgling stars.
Who won and lost this year’s game of image making? Here are our picks:
Winner: Blake Lively & Ryan Reynolds
Co-host Blake Lively stunned us all in her magical two-in-one glam Versace dress alongside husband Ryan Reynolds who wore his simplistic yet stylish white tie. In a world where men increasingly choose outlandish outfits, Reynolds won praise among the men’s fashion set who long for more traditional attire and subtler gestures.
Winner: Riz Ahmed
Changing the tone of the Met Gala came Riz Ahmed who walked the red carpet in a silk shirt, tank top and trousers with knee-high working boots which represented the uniform of the immigrant workers that came to New York City that “kept the Gilded age going”. A refreshing and intuitive take on the theme - more stylish and subtle in its political statement than Ocasio-Cortes’s famous ‘Tax the Rich’ dress, while defining his values nonetheless.
Winner: Eric Adams
New York mayor Eric Adams has entered office with a mandate to clean up the streets of New York and make residents feel safe once again. Like other politicians have tried to, he used his visit to the Met Gala to remind people that he has his mind on bigger things. However, unlike AOCs ‘tax the rich’ message—which to many felt like trying to have one’s cake and eat it—Adams’s sloganeering is a subtle addition to the outfit, blending with Nigerian-American artist Laolu Senbanjo’s chic designs.
Winner: Kim Kardashian
In a genius stunt, Kim Kardashian wore Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ dress she wore when singing to John F. Kennedy in 1962. She spoke about her challenges fitting into the dress, and despite losing 16 lbs. in 3 weeks the garment would still not close in the back. Like any good stunt, it provoked outrage from both fashion conservators and dieticians, generating thousands of column inches and setting the Twitterverse abuzz.
Loser: Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid returned to the Met Gala with a questionable and outlandish outfit—that said Gigi could get herself a cameo in Catwoman with this Latex catsuit and spiked heels.
Loser: The Met Gala
‘Lots of gilt, no guilt;’ ran the Times’ headline. In an age where celebrities strive to make themselves seem down to earth and distance themselves from the public’s increasing animosity toward the super rich and blatant displays of wealth, the Met Gala seems to go against the grain of the times, a kind of reputational Veblen good.
Timing is everything, and it was even more unfortunate for the Met Gala that it occurred on the same night that the news about the upcoming repeal of Roe v. Wade was leaked. People who would typically enjoy the spectacle-for-spectacle’s sake suddenly found their feeds filled with something that felt urgent and important. Consequently, many left the weekend with the sense of the Met Gala’s superfluity and excess, a factor which has always been both its appeal and a reputational bane.
As far as A-list events go, the Met Gala is one of the most ‘in your face’ about its glamour and elitism. Despite particular peoples’ attempts to use it as a political platform, it tilts heavily toward depoliticised glamour. Unfortunately for the Met Gala, this weekend, it lost the battle for our feeds because, well, something important happened.