The season’s most fashionable event happened on September 13 – and even though it wasn’t Friday the thirteenth, let’s just say some of the outfits made viewers feel unlucky. However, there were some guests that showed up to the 2021 Met Gala on theme and dressed to the nines.
This year’s theme was In America: A Lexicon of Fashion. If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “Hmmm, that’s broad... what is the theme trying to get across?” Have no fear, curious reader – there are answers. According to The Met’s website, the theme is an “exploration of fashion in the United States in the Anna Wintour Costume Center. It establishes a modern vocabulary of American fashion based on its expressive qualities.” This year’s concept gives attendees a specific boundary, but also allows the space for the creative autonomy needed for them to shine at an event such as this – and shine they did.
With that said, let’s get into my top ten picks of the Met Gala.
10. Chance the Rapper & Kirsten Corley Bennett
One of the best dressed couples of the night was Chance the Rapper and his wife Kirsten Corley Bennett. The pair chose to go all American by wearing Ralph Lauren. Corley Bennett donned a sleek, black, long-sleeved evening gown and red nails to match her husband, who wore a custom red, black and white blazer that alluded to Chicago icons and sporty black trousers that drew inspiration from Lauren’s Stadium 1992 collection.
Chance and Ralph Lauren have some familiarity – so much, in fact, that Ralph Lauren designed his wedding suit (and we all know how Chance feels about his marriage). Needless to say, the designer brand certainly did not want to let the artist and his wife down – and let them down they did not. On the look, Chance said, “I felt so supported by [Ralph Lauren] before, but to represent them in this specific year and it’s about American fashion — it just makes sense. Especially in the way that we’re doing it, because hip hop is American culture and the biggest American culture is hip hop.”
9. Lewis Hamilton
The Formula 1 driver stepped out from behind the wheel and onto the red carpet. His look was reminiscent of both the bride and the groom. The black suit and full length tulle and lace button down that draped elegantly over his left knee were designed by Kenneth Nicholson.
Hamilton’s piece was just a piece of the pie, however – the driver did what any exemplary groom would do and let the bride shine. The bride in the case was the table of young Black creatives that he bought a table for. He used his platform to get three Black designers, Kenneth Nicholson, Edvin Thompson, Jason Rembert, Sha’Carri Richardson, Kehlani, Alton Mason, Law Roach and Miles Cambley-Watson. Then he stepped to the side and let them have their moment. That moment was best summed up in Law Roach’s Instagram post, which he captioned: when Black people meet up!!!
8. Tessa Thompson
There’s a new sheriff in town and her name is Tessa Thompson. The actress looked like a desert rose, sporting a short red and black dress with black cowboy boots and an eccentric hat. The outfit, as a matter of fact, helps the roses and other plant life – the creator, Iris Van Herpen, actually uses low-impact materials in her swirling designs.
Now hold on partner, there’s one final detail we need to discuss: Thompson’s hat. The piece wasn’t just any old leather ten-gallon – this particular hat was made out of braids. This extra touch of pizazz made the look even more American, as it nods to the contemporary natural hair movement in the Black community.
7. Lupita Nyong’o
The Academy Award-winning actress was a denim dream on the red carpet. She wore a custom architectural Atelier Versace gown, adorned with crystals and complimented by a modern navy underskirt. The look reminded me of the American tradition of dichotomy – City vs. country, Black vs. white, early bird vs. night owl – for better or for worse, that duality is a significant component of what makes America what it is.
Lupita hit the nail on the head with the look, but her team didn’t stop there with the American references. Lupita’s hair was inspired by Brooklyn-born conceptual artist Lorna Simpson. When asked about the style, Nyong’o’s hair stylist, Vernon François, said, “[Simpson’s] take on texture is powerful, and I wanted to imitate the effortless wave and movement that she conveys in her work.”
6. Precious Lee
Fresh off the runways of New York Fashion Week, Precious Lee ended her run in the Big Apple at the Met Gala. The curvy model had one of my favorite looks of the night, donning a zoot suit-inspired blazer dress by Area that had beads and floor length braided fringe. The zoot suit was popular during the 1940′s within a number of minority communities, particularly the Black Harlem population. The black and silver look was paired with a chunky silver choker, silver headband, clear pumps and high pony. The look was giving BODY and Lee was giving FACE – everything about this outfit was a serve.
5. Kerby Jean-Raymond
What’s more American than an American designer? An American designer in his own design! Jean-Raymond is the founder of Pyer Moss; the brand, as he describes it, is an “art project” or “timely social experiment” at times. “Pyer Moss,” Jean-Raymond said, “aims to use its voice and platform to challenge social narratives and evoke dialogue.” The designer and attendee wore an all-red Pyer Moss ensemble that consisted of a kevlar vest, printed wool suit, white button down and suede shoes with crystals.
The look was bold, bright and born of his creative mind. Oh, and Mr. Jean-Rayond DID NOT come to play about his accessories – he wore some of the iciest pieces to set his look apart from the rest.
4. Alton Mason
Is the American model gonna let the elevator bring him down? Oh no he won’t! Mason wore an angelic, Prince-invoking custom suit by Theophilio. The sides of the suit are where the piece truly shined… literally. From head to toe it was embellished with crystals and pearls. Mason’s looks called back to Prince’s iconic Purple Rain look, down to the curly peaked hair and high collar. The 6′ 2″ model made himself even more of a presence by wearing Shaun Ross x United Nude pearl boots. All to say, the 23-year old looked divine.
The embodiment of the sun, Iman STUNNED the red carpet. The supermodel wore a custom Dolce&Gabbana x Harris Reed moment. Yes, I said moment, not look – this was a moment. The piece consisted of a gilded strapless corset and wide leg trousers, custom Fred Leighton earrings and matching a headdress and cage-skirt that looked like rays of sun.
Jaws were on the floor as Iman owned the red carpet. Her choice to have Reed, an up and coming gender-fluid designer, design her dress came as a surprise to most as Iman has built close relationships with major brands over her 50-year career. However, the young designer did not disappoint as they were the architect of THE most memorable look of the night.
2. Yara Shahidi
Hands down my favorite look of the night. The actress-activist was a VISION in a custom embroidered Christian Dior gown that was completed with a gold tulle veil, tulle opera gloves, and Cartier jewelry. Not only was the look absolutely breathtaking, but it also alluded to history. Shahidi’s Met Gala look paid homage to one of her biggest inspirations, Josephine Baker.
Baker was an American born French entertainer, activist, and spy. The multi hyphenated star happened to be a close friend of Christian Dior. Shahidi and her stylist, Jason Bolden, scoured throughout the Dior archives to find an outfit from the fashion icon to take inspiration from. Ultimately, they landed on a look that came from Baker’s American tour, in which she exclusively wore Dior. The Dior team went to work, and the rest is history. Shahidi said, “My goal was to pay homage to [a] powerhouse renegade black American artist”.
Yara, you did just that – and you are sure to inspire a new generation of Black artists.
Now before we get to number one, a few honorable mentions.
I’m a fashion LOVER but they only gave me ten slots – so, before we get to number one, here are some honorable mentions that didn’t make it into the top 10.
Chloe and Halle Bailey in Rodarte
Adut Akech in Michael Kors Collection
Jeremy O. Harris in Tommy Hilfiger
Natalia Bryant in a sustainable Conner Ives (Fight On!)
Lil Nas X’s FIRST Versace look.
1. Jeremy Pope
Pope was the best dressed but most overlooked attendee of the event. An ode to America’s past can be seen no clearer than in Pope’s Met Gala look. Unlike American history classes, Pope acknowledged and dedicated his look to the attire of enslaved African people. His outfit featured an ensemble of designers – an all-white compact cotton jacket and pants set by Australian designer Dion Lee; a cotton boutonniere flower by Denim Tears; white Tabi Boots by Maison Margiela; and a cotton Broadcloth Picking Sack by James Flemons.
Every aspect of the outfit carried purpose. The lowered shoulder referenced how slaves would have their clothes torn off their backs before they were beaten; the Tabi Boots were worn in reference to how slaves were treated like cattle; Pope was wrapped in 100% cotton to show that his ancestors went through plight after plight over a little plant; but HE. IS. HERE. and he will not forget them. Pope posted a visual presentation to Instagram and captioned it:
They planted seeds of beauty, tended to fields with unspeakable strength, & harvested a kind of excellence that would outlive them for centuries. So that we could one day stand up, stretch toward the sun, & tell their story.