Fashion’s Biggest Nightmare
Published on March 29, 2023, at 1:16 p.m.
by Emilia Ciezadlo.
Since 1948, the Met Gala has been one of the most iconic recurring events in fashion history and has even been coined “fashion’s biggest night out.”
Traditionally held on the first Monday in May, the Met Gala is a fundraiser that benefits the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The event is known for its iconic themes such as “Camp: Notes on Fashion,” “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” and “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.” This year’s theme is “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty,” honoring the late fashion designer.
Karl Lagerfeld is arguably one of the most famous designers in fashion history, who worked with major houses like Chanel, Fendi and Chloé. His unique curiosity and creativity drove him in revolutionizing fashion for over 60 years in the industry. Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour even called Lagerfeld “a fascinating and unusual character” due to his bold nature. However, some of these bold choices are what caused some hesitancy on social media regarding The Met’s choice to honor the designer this year.
It’s no secret that Lagerfeld has made headlines with his controversial statements throughout his career. The designer received backlash for comments on models’ weights, the #MeToo movement and many other questionable opinions. Despite these problematic comments, models who worked with Lagerfeld, like Cara Delevingne, defended his actions on social media.
At this year’s gala, we can expect celebrities to pay homage to Lagerfeld with vintage Chanel or other inspired pieces. Though the Met Gala encourages celebrities to abide by the theme, it is by no means required. However, fans express disappointment and boredom when gala attendees do not dress with the theme. So, is it possible to abide by the theme this year without openly supporting Lagerfeld’s past problematic actions?
“Fashion’s biggest night” is arguably the best night to make a statement without actually making a statement. What I mean is that celebrities have the chance to voice opinions through their attire. However, there is a very fine line between success and failure with this method of expression.
For example, in 2021, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attempted to condemn wealth inequality by wearing a dress with “Tax the Rich” painted on the back in large, red letters. While bold, AOC’s dress sparked criticism because of the prestige of the event. Some pointed out how AOC could be perceived as hypocritical by attending an event that costs $30,000 per ticket. After critics took to Twitter to disapprove of the look, AOC made a statement on Instagram to clarify that “the medium is the message.”
At the top of the red carpet entrance into The Met, celebrities attending the gala have the opportunity to interview with representatives from Vogue. Some celebrities skip the interview and head straight inside, but that’s not a smart move. The Vogue interview is the perfect time for celebrities to clarify the purpose behind their outfits. Otherwise, it is a missed opportunity for them to connect with their publics, and assumptions will then be made. Though AOC was featured on Vogue’s YouTube three days after the event, the congresswoman did not participate in the magazine’s official interview process at the top of the carpet.
A live interview would have allowed AOC to provide additional context for the outfit on the spot.
Another celebrity who previously faced backlash for her Met Gala attire is Sarah Jessica Parker. The 2015 theme, China: Through the Looking Glass, sparked criticism as a whole. However, Parker received accusations of appropriating cultural and racial stereotypes due to her headdress. In 2016, Parker replied to a different accusation by saying she pays close attention to the gala theme with great consideration, research and conviction.
Designers and stylists make up a large part of the Met Gala, but public relations professionals are just as important. Celebrities should look to their PR teams to decide if their outfits make the statements they are intending to make. This year’s theme will put celebrities to the test.