The Met Gala 2021: How women are changing politics one dress at a time

The Met Gala, an exclusive, annual event that marks the opening of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Fashion exhibit in New York. If your name is on the invite list, you’ve made it. New, bright faces appear each year, alongside household names such as the Kardashians, the Jenners, Rihanna, Whoopi Golberg – all hoping to be named best-dressed. 

It is obvious that this event has become an opportunity for celebrities to push the boundaries of fashion and make a bold statement with their choice of attire. Jewels, crowns, trains, capes, fur – in previous years all of these accessories are what made headlines – yet this year it seems politics got an invite to the ball. This year’s fashion statements sparked controversy, and they were all worn by women. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, nicknamed ‘the anti-capitalist queen’, wore a dress that had ‘Tax the Rich’ inscribed on the back. Cortez, a member of the United States Congress, is known for her radical ideas to revolutionise the American healthcare system, as well as, the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis. Her solution to these problems – tax the rich – proposing that those earning over $10 million should be taxed up to 70%. So, the Met Gala, an event witnessed by millions, seemed like the ideal place to express her beliefs and raise awareness. 

AOC caused a stir with her statement-making Met Gala gown - CNN Style
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at the 2021 Met Gala. Source: Getty Images.

Though her decision to attend the gala and her dress choice sparked a lot of criticism. Donald Trump Jr. was quick to call Cortez a ‘fraud’ for going to an event swarmed by some of the richest in America. It costs a pretty penny to get your name on the invite list, $30,000 to be exact and many of the garments worn can cost even more. So should Cortez, an avid socialist, have chosen such an elitist event to express her views? 

Arriving at an event filled to the brim with rich celebrities with a slogan like ‘Tax the Rich’ definitely took courage. Yet, this shows us that women don’t need to hold banners, they can write their message on clothes. Fashion, an industry dominated by men and money can become a tool to fight back. Since society chooses to obsess over what women wear, what better way to grab the attention of the fashion industry than to write your message on your clothes. 

Another more surprising celebrity that followed in Cortez’s footsteps was Cara Delevigne. A model and actress, she wore a vest that said ‘Peg the Patriarchy’. Perhaps a simpler message in comparison to Cortez’, Delevigne reminded everyone that the patriarchy still exists and needs to be taken down. A classic, feminist message which fails to lose its relevance. 

Met Gala 2021: Cara Delevingne tells us to 'peg the patriarchy' | Metro News
Cara Delevingne at the Met Gala 2021. Source: Getty Images.

What is significant about this particular statement is Delevigne’s background. AOC’s dress was very ‘on brand’ for her, Delevigne on the other hand found fame in arguably the most misogynist industry of them all, modelling. An industry dominated by eating disorders, sexual objectification and unrealistic beauty standards. Previously a Victoria Secret Angel, Delevigne has been known to wear feminist fashion pieces in the past such as a ‘future is female’ top, perhaps her time in such a toxic industry has made her more willing to fight back against the patriarchal forces that once controlled her. Regardless, Delevigne’s fashion statement at the met gala is definitely a step in the right direction. 

This year’s Met Gala made history. For the first time headlines weren’t entirely filled with who wore the most lavish gown, this year politics won the spotlight. Emily Tamkin suggests that no dress could ever shake such an established institution that is fashion, especially the Met Gala and she is right. However, the frocks worn by Cortez, Delevigne and other notable mentions such as Carolyn Maloney and Megan Rapinoe achieved what they set out to do. These women started a conversation, one that you can continue. 

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