Who Gets to Define American Fashion, and What Is It, Asks the Met Gala?

Fashion is a lot like apple pie in America. From Calvin Klein to Tommy Hilfiger to Tom Ford, fashion-forward designers have set the standard for the American market. If you flip through the pages of Vogue or scroll through Instagram, you’ll probably see one of Klein’s sports bras or a dress by Ford with impeccable tailoring.

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General Obsession

Given the nation’s general obsession with fashion, it’s perhaps not surprising that the theme of Monday night’s Met Gala, a yearly charity event by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion.” (On Saturday, September 18, a two-part companion exhibition will open at the Manhattan museum.)

Max Hollein

Max Hollein, director of the Met, says, “Fashion is both a harbinger of cultural shifts and a record of the forces, beliefs, and events that shape our lives.” “This… exhibition explores a variety of viewpoints through presentations. It speaks with powerful immediacy to some of the complexities of history. 

 Fashion reflects changing notions of identity in America. So we can consider the technique’s aesthetic and cultural effects on historical facets of American life.

According to News Reporter

 Noor Brara and Christine Ajudua of Artnet News report that the gala’s A-list attendees pondered “what defines American fashion and… who gets to be American in the first place” in response to this year’s theme.

Visitors Response

Some visitors responded to the prompt by dressing in attire inspired by the American flag. In the case of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, by the Statue of Liberty. But others, like actress Lupita Nyong’o in a Versace denim dress and singer Lil Nas X in a gold bodysuit resembling the Star Wars droid C-3PO. They interpreted “American fashion” in a more comprehensive manner.

Supermodel Iman

One of the evening’s most iconic looks was worn by supermodel Iman, who wore a tiered, gold hoop skirt and matching sunburst headpiece by Dolce & Gabbana and British-American designer Harris Reed. “I thought it was beautiful because it felt hopeful. A ray of light after all the darkness we felt,” Iman said to Vogue on the red carpet.

Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian sported an all-black haute couture gown by Balenciaga. But her matching mask that covered her entire face represented the other extreme. What could be more American than wearing a T-shirt from head to toe?

Political Massages

Several attendees distributed political messages through their clothing. While actress and model Cara Delevingne wore a top that read “Peg the patriarchy,” congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wore a dress that said “Tax the Rich.” Another congresswoman, Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, wore a floor-length gown honoring the Equal Rights Amendment and the suffragist movement.

Andrew Bolton

According to Andrew Bolton, a curator at the Costume Institute, “I think that the consolidated emphasis on conscious creativity during the pandemic and the social justice movements,” he told Vogue’s Laird Borrelli-Persson earlier this year.

 And I’ve been very impressed with how American designers have responded to the current social. So political climate, particularly regarding the issues of body inclusivity and gender fluidity.

Darnell-Jamal Lisby’s

According to Darnell-Jamal Lisby’s article for i-D, white male designers like Charles James, Halston, Hilfiger, and Klein have long defined mainstream fashion in the United States. But this year’s Costume Institute exhibition at the Met aims to challenge the male-dominated fashion industry.

Jacob Davis invented the rivet-lined jeans by including designers like Black Muslim Nzinga Knight and Jewish immigrants. Levi Strauss, patented in 1873, and streetwear pioneers Dapper Dan, April Walker, and Willi Smith, “In America” will present a more mixed picture of the history of American fashion.

In April, Bolton told Vogue, “I do believe that American fashion is undergoing a Renaissance.” “I believe discussions about diversity and inclusion lead with young designers in particular.”

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